Keep Walthamstow warm this winterVolunteer Alex Keble on how to help the borough's biggest food bank
For eight years, Waltham Forest’s biggest food bank has provided an invaluable service to the community’s most vulnerable. But now, at a time when need has never been higher, the Rukhsana Kahn Foundation (RKF) in Walthamstow faces a challenge for survival.
I've been volunteering at the charity since March last year and have seen it feed almost 100 families and deliver 1,000 ready-made meals every week. At RKF, we are proud to have never turned a client away, despite relying exclusively on small donations from locals and a tireless volunteer workforce.
Unfortunately, that may soon change. RKF is now struggling to attract regular donors, following the financial squeeze of the pandemic. With the £20-per-week cut to Universal Credit coming into effect last month, the timing could hardly be worse, but despite these challenges we are launching a new initiative: a drive for hot-water bottles in response to the emerging energy crisis.
This winter will be one of the toughest we've ever seen in the borough for families living below the poverty line. With energy bills soaring, we've been really worried about how our clients will cope with the cold months ahead. Hopefully, with support from our community, the hot-water bottle campaign can help.
The initial target of #WalthamstowWarmUp is one hot-water bottle per household, donated by small businesses and local residents at various drop-off points around the borough, although we would like to distribute enough to have one per person. We are also hoping the initiative - which has already attracted support from Stow Brothers estate agent - can let more people know about the work we do.
Not many people in Waltham Forest are aware of the scale of RKF's operation or indeed our modest budget. At least 300 bags of food (four bags to each family, containing everything from fresh bread to canned vegetables to milk and cereal) are distributed every single week as part of a service that worked in overdrive throughout the pandemic.
Demand has increased dramatically since March 2020 and will continue to do so as energy prices rise and benefits are cut. We are entirely dependent on the kindness of people living in the area, and so it's unsurprising that our founder, Jahangir Khan, took a sombre tone when I asked him to comment on RKF's long-term future.
“In all honesty, we desperately need help from businesses and from anyone in the local community who can afford to donate money to us,” he said. “There is no way this place is shutting down – me and my volunteers would never let that happen – but we are reaching the point where we are having to scale back our operation, which is heart-breaking.”
Anything people can give, whether it's a one-off donation or a monthly direct debit, is extremely helpful, and we are always open on Saturday mornings to receive donations of food at our centre on Greenleaf Road.
Visit their website here or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on donations and where to find your local hot-water bottle drop-off point.