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Published September 2020

An interview with Jane Roy Co-Executive Director for the London Food Bank by Kristine Abramoff

London’s Food Bank is an organization that helps provide people with the basic groceries they need to survive. In London, the food bank is both a direct, warehouse style food bank, and also deals with different agencies around the city that distribute food to those in need. Throughout COVID, the numbers of people needing assistance have varied widely. Numbers increased immediately after COVID hit, before decreasing a few weeks later as government relief kicked in. The food bank offers support to around 20 different agencies in London, who provide around 40 different programs for vulnerable groups. When COVID hit, many meal programs or breakfast programs were affected, but more need appeared as the food bank supported lunch programs for homeless people. As smaller agencies had to close their doors due to COVID, different opportunities arose; the food bank offered support to St. Joseph’s Food Bank , which hands out bag lunches, and hamper agencies like Salvation Army, St. Paul’s, and residential groups.

Jane Roy "in the midst" of the results of a food drive
Jane Roy, Co-Executive Director for the London Food Bank, says that COVID has resulted in some big changes at the Food Bank headquarters. Only one or two people who need help can be in the building at one time, and hampers are pre-made so that people can drop by quickly to get a basket of food. Volunteers are still an integral part of the operation, but the number of volunteers is limited within the building. Measures to avoid the spread of COVID have been put in place to protect volunteers and patrons. Their volunteers are split into two teams, so that if one team needs to quarantine, the other team can still continue to serve. Jane says a priority is to ensure that they will be able to safely stay open throughout this time of need.

The London Food Bank is fortunate to have a number of Christians involved with their work, and Jane thanks the Christian community for being incredibly supportive of the Food Bank. Many groups have hosted food drives, individuals have volunteered, and Jane sees the Christian community showing the values and tenets of Christianity as volunteers turn the other cheek, provide for the poor, and step up to help others in need. Christian volunteers have also provided an exceptional example of how to be kind in an unkind world, and how to compassionately help suffering people who are struggling during difficult times. The ability to act without judgement can be difficult, but Jane sees these volunteers putting themselves in other people’s shoes, extending compassion, and being a light for others involved at the food bank.

Jane says that the Christian folks who are involved with the food bank set a particularly positive example for others, as they are careful not to judge people by their appearances. Though it can be easy to judge those who use services like the food bank, it is important to realize that we do not know everything that is going on, and that we should not make certain judgments about these people. Many people who have used the food bank do not use it frequently. Last year, 40% of clients only came one time during the year, and only about 2% come every month. People use the food bank as a last resort, and only come when they absolutely must. A kind and compassionate approach helps these struggling people feel dignity even in their suffering.

The Food Bank’s integral service to people who never thought they would be in a situation where they needed to use a food bank became especially obvious in the first few weeks of COVID as specific demographics struggled. London’s international student population was hit especially hard. These people could not apply for CERB, could not go home, and could not work due to visa restrictions. Though many had rent deferred, they often had no money at all for food. Meeting the needs of such a vulnerable population was especially important during this time. Other people worried that the food bank would be closed during COVID, and were incredibly relieved that they were open so that they could access basic necessities. Through it all, clients have been incredibly thankful as the food bank offers them the support they need to make it through this difficult time.

Though the food bank is such a vital service for Londoners, there are still things about it that would surprise many people. One of them is that half of each hamper they give is either fresh or frozen food like milk, meat, vegetables, and fruit. Giving people access to nutritious fresh foods is a priority. Right now during COVID, donations of fresh-grown garden produce do not have to be quarantined, and are able to go out immediately to those in need. Most of the money coming in is spent on fresh foods, and the food bank is in the process of building a greenhouse to help provide people with garden-grown produce. Through this, the food bank will be able to continue to meet the needs of the community in a sustainable way.

For more information about the London Food Bank or to learn about ways to get involved, visit