Food Banking Around the World: Greater London Edition

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The sun is always shining at Epsom & Ewell Foodbank’s Ewell’s location.

Have you ever been truly hungry before? I have. During part of the time I lived in Guatemala, I learned what it was like to be hungry, to live with a local Mayan family and became someone who ate two dozen eggs a week (eggs are a great combat of hunger).

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Epsom & Ewell Foodbank truck at Generation Church.

A little background…

I am Sam Kelly and I resigned from my food bank “digital ninja” role at the Harry Chapin Food Bank of Southwest Florida in February to travel the world. My food bank was one of Feeding America’s food banks helping serve those facing hunger at the local level. Every state has at least one Feeding America (FA) food bank, (click here to find yours), that serves their own network of partner agencies that delivers food into hands of those who need it most.

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With Steve Bienko on the dock of the Harry Chapin Food Bank after his generous donation.

During my travels around the globe, I’ve spent time with those who line the streets begging for food and/or money and I’ve seen that everywhere there are people who are basking in the surplus. In the US alone, 1 of 7 Americans face hunger, yet nearly 30-40% of our food supply is wasted (World Food Day). In the UK, 1 of 5 residents live below the poverty line (EEFB website).

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Surplus of donations at the Epsom & Ewell Foodbank’s Ewell’s location.

And while I miss my SWFL food bank family, my passion for helping my neighbors will never cease. While I was in London I spent a day at the Epsom & Ewell FoodBank (EEFB). They are part of The Trussell Trust (TTT), their parent organization, that works to combat poverty and hunger across the UK. Feeding America has a network of 200 food banks in the States and TTT has 428 foodbanks. Last year alone, EEFB distributed 2,515 three-day emergency food support to those in crisis.

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Foodbank donations waiting to be weighed at the Epsom location.

Note: TTT refers to foodbanks as a singular word and FA separates in two. The main difference is FA’s food banks in US distribute food primarily to partner agencies, such as churches, shelters and other nonprofits that directly provide the food to clients. Foodbanks in the UK with the help of social workers, health care providers and others identify clients who are in need of food and then issue vouchers redeemable at a foodbank centre.

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Pledging to take action against hunger in Walmart’s 2014 Fight Hunger, Spark Change campaign (during Hunger Action Month, September)


Like my food bank in SWFL, EEFB is fortunate to have wonderful support from the community, for them particularly in food drives. Like in the States, food is donated and each product is hand-sorted. At EEFB canned goods close to the expiration date are placed at designated tables at a distribution, encouraging clients to help themselves. In the US, generally canned goods are distributed past their printed date. Second Harvest of Madison, the FA food bank serving 16 southwestern Wisconsin counties, says “the code dates on packages are for use at the supermarket and indicate how long the package should be displayed on the shelves. These dates have very little to do with whether the food is safe to consume.”

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More donations, post-sorting, waiting distribtution in storage at the Epsom location.

While touring EEFB with the staff, I explained that in the US, food banks are becoming more of a norm, and learned there’s still some stigma about them in the UK. A curious thing is that the UK is ahead of us with most of their grocery stores offering discount products. For example, at London’s Tesco store by the Pimlico stop, I snagged a sandwich for 20 pence and a salad for 40 pence on the day of its labeled date!

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Happily sorting nonperishables after a 10K run to the Foodbank location.

So whether you share your next lunch with someone or spend a few hours of your time volunteering, my hope in sharing this with you, is that you take the time to learn more about hunger in your area. I hope you can make the time to volunteer!

slk_102816_eefb2Selfie picture from my presentation on Social Media at The Hunger Summit at Hodges University.

Let’s stop hunger together!

Sonrisas,
Sam

P.S. For those digital nomads out there: check out the Global FoodBanking Network at https://www.foodbanking.org/

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