Feature: Inside a Havering foodbank – feeding those living on the breadline

PUBLISHED: 10:00 07 June 2015

The food bank at Harold Hill. Volunteers Val Hughes, Angela Harvey and Mavis Lindsay

The food bank at Harold Hill. Volunteers Val Hughes, Angela Harvey and Mavis Lindsay


More than 4,500 emergency food packages have been handed out by Havering foodbanks in the past year, including 2,243 to feed children.

The food bank at Harold Hill. Volunteers Val Hughes and Mavis Lindsay The food bank at Harold Hill. Volunteers Val Hughes and Mavis Lindsay

The figures, released by The Trussell Trust – which has centres in Harold Hill, Collier Row and Rainham – show that the use of foodbanks in the borough has more than quadrupled since 2011.

Mark Reeves said: “In 2011, when I opened the Harold Hill centre I would see about five families a week. Now I see 25.”

I joined volunteers at the Harold Hill centre for one day last week, to see the scale of the operation to feed those on the breadline.

Both Mark and London foodbank manager, Sarah Greenwood, are quick to counter any prejudices that may accompany foodbank users.

The most common reasons people are referred to foodbanks are benefit delays, low income and benefit changes.

Mark told me of a Havering man who turned to foodbanks to feed his children after the death of his wife meant he could only work part-time.

He also spoke of a couple in their twenties both working on minimum wage struggling to feed their three children.

Kim Brown, 54, of Harold Hill had been referred and came to pick up her food while I was visiting. She said she was there because of “a lack of shopping at home”. It’s also been a long time since she last worked.

She leaves with food for a single person for three days.

Sarah said: “The image of hard-working British people is never portrayed in the media. It’s not Benefit Street. Most Harold Hill users are from the white British community.

“The cost of living in London is so extortionate. Many people are living on the brink of poverty,”

In total 4,742 food parcels were distributed by the Haveirng foodbanks in the past year.

This is a decrease from 5,079 in 2013-14, but that trend is not expected to continue.

Academics at Oxford University have predicted that use of foodbanks will rise further and said the government’s planned welfare cuts could double the number of people in need of support.

Meeting any growth in demand will be dependent on donations and volunteers.

Local residents and organisations donate two tonnes of food a month.

Havering Council also provides a £10,000 grant, but the charity still struggles with donations to cover running costs.

The centre’s volunteers, local church members or residents, work three or four days a week.

“They all have a real heart to serve,” says Mark who started the centre to leave a mark on people’s lives after a conversion to Christianity in 2005.

Jean Farrow, a volunteer since 2011, said: “Some people feel so ashamed to ask for food. We give them a cup of tea and a biscuit to let them know it’s OK, they’re not alone. Food usually isn’t the only crisis.”

Before she went home to make tuna pasta I spoke to Kim as she enjoyed a cup of tea and biscuit. She looked lighter than when she entered and seemed content just to sit.

After a chatting to us about her cat and Havering’s parks she headed off to cook.

Latest Romford News Stories


A man who is wanted in connection with nine burglaries was arrested in a police raid after he jumped from an upstairs window.

A woman has been taken to hospital after a three-car pile up on the A127 in Upminster this morning (Monday, January 22).

Two 20-year-olds from Chadwell Heath and Goodmayes have been charged in connection with a robbery in Southend on Saturday (January 20).

A 60s-themed show celebrating everything that is British will be taking centre stage at a Romford theatre.

Around 30pc of women in Havering aged 25-49 are not getting smear tests when invited, according to worrying figures from the borough’s healthcare experts.

These are the first purple Elizabeth line roundels installed ahead of the line’s official opening in December.

The National Trust is urging any past or present Havering residents to share their memories of Rainham Hall during the 60s.

Yesterday, 15:00

Havering had the highest number of cases in London of a chronic lung disease which has been associated with air pollution in the last year, new figures reveal.


Window and conservatory specialist Ken Rhodes talks about the possibilities for brightening up your home for the new year, and with their home improvement finance deals it’s possible for everyone to make some changes

Lisa and Jennie are cousins who grew up in the borough. Their grandmother, ‘Nanny Fish’ was a huge part of their lives, and while she had dementia and increasing needs, she really benefited from having care in her nephew’s loving home. This experience was the inspiration for Lisa and Jennie to set-up their own home care service.

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Most read news

Show Job Lists

News from your area


Having a brand new kitchen is something that lots of people want but can only dream of. Sadly keeping up to date and making our living spaces as nice as they can be is a costly and incredibly stressful business. Even a fresh coat of paint makes all the difference but isn’t easy or quick.

Who wouldn’t love the chance to go on a shopping spree. Imagine being able to walk into a shop and choose whatever your heart desires without having to worry about how much it costs.

Digital Edition


Enjoy the
Romford Recorder
e-edition today


Education and Training


Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now