RA-C’s “Food From Home” Foodbank has been up and running for about a month now and is such an exciting and essential extension of our organisation. Many of our clients from African and Middle Eastern countries can now access ingredients that are expensive to come by and would not be found in Colchester’s general food bank. In deciding what to offer in Food from Home, we turned to our clients and community members for guidance. We took shopping lists from several of our Nigerian clients and our wonderful team member Zaenab, accompanied Phillip, our Communications Manager, to Food Inc. to put together an order for our Middle Eastern stock.
Some of our clients who are in most need come weekly, others fortnightly and we have begun to receive referrals from other agencies and community groups. Our first referral was for a family from Iraq who’s first Universal Credit payment was being processed, which can take up to five weeks, meaning over a month without income. We were able to support them with a wide choice of groceries, spices, tahini paste, dates, oil, rice, pulses, long-life milk, chocolates and more, as well as toiletries. One family had an autistic nine-year-old child who wears nappies, so we ordered some larger ones especially for them to take.
We’ve also developed a good relationship with the African shops on Queen St and Greenstead Rd, as well as Food Inc. the Middle Eastern supermarket, where we get most of our stock. It is wonderful to support local businesses that are of great importance to the communities we work with, and to expand our own community in the process. Our most recent addition to the food bank has been hair products for our African clients, as Mathilde realised, the shampoo and hair products we had available were all suited to European hair types. This has been received extremely well.
One of our Nigerian clients said, “It is a true life saver”. The variety and quality of food we offer has been recognised by many of our clients. To name a few of the African cooking products we offer; maize flour, whole yams, powdered yam, brown beans and other pulses, dried and tinned fish, spices, custard powder, cornstarch, various juices, rices and instant noodles.
Not only does our foodbank prevent destitution amongst our most vulnerable clients, it also allows them to enjoy and share with us a part of themselves. Culturally, food is what makes us feel familiar, comforted, safe and connected to who we are and where we are from. Mentally and physically, we are then nourished, and this is what we want for our clients.