A success! Waltham Forest’s unique mini food banks

Five existing banks are filling up fast with donations – and several more boxes are to come by summer, reports Elizabeth Atkin

A mini food bank inspired by Wood Street Market (Credit: Sean Rodrigo)

Mini food banks – created by local virtual reality artist Sean Rodrigo – are sweeping across Walthamstow. 

In an earlier Echo article, we reported that the first bank – 3D-printed by Sean and designed to accept tens of canned donations for food bank PL84U Al-Suffa – was in the midst of receiving its final touches, before finding a permanent home fixed on a fence outside of 172 Winns Avenue. 

It launched on 17th February, and by 21st February it had been completely filled with 60 donations. After this great success, four more mini food banks have popped up around the borough, with a further five on the cards. 

Sean told the Echo: “The project is going well. We’ve reached our fundraising goal for seven boxes on GoFundMe, with a plan to push it to ten if we can achieve further funding. 

“Over the first 13 weeks [of the project], we’ve had the boxes full up, sometimes twice a week. We’ve been collecting a range of donations usually about 60-80 items per week – an estimate of as many as 1,000 items donated over this period.” 

“Considerate” donations have included well-known food brands, moisturiser, nappies and toothpaste, along with other essential items. Some who have received donations have even left handwritten thank you cards inside. 

Of the public’s positive response and plentiful donations, Sean shared: “I made the boxes with the social cause in mind but didn’t really expect the swell of support that came after launching them. It has really renewed my faith in people after seeing how quickly the banks fill up.” 

PL84U Al-Suffa founder and executive director, Saira Mir, was also thrilled by the success of the mini food banks – which she shared in an email chat with the Echo

“Thanks to Sean for creating these AMAZING!! mini food banks (MFBs) and to all the hosts for their hard work. The MFBs have generated an amazing amount of much-needed food donations as well as other non-food items,” she wrote. 

“They are an easier method of giving, accessible for everyone and a fun way for children to take part in helping others. These donations are vital in supporting people and families who are struggling to put food on the table. 

A mini food bank inspired by Nag’s Head Pub (Credit: Sean Rodrigo)

“Mini food banks are another way of connecting with other humans and the world, especially through this pandemic.” 

The existing brightly-coloured banks take clear design inspiration from old East London pie and mash shops, with one also modelled after the distinctively pink-and-green Nag’s Head pub in Walthamstow. 

Currently, mini food banks can be found outside of the ASDA entrance in The Mall, at 11 Tennyson Road and 100 Maynard Road. 

“We met the landlord of the Nags Head pub in the village after she saw the mini food bank at 100 Maynard Road,” continued Sean. “And she was so excited about how much detail the box has with accurate architectural details – and the pub cat.” 

The most recent addition, at 107 Fyfield Road, is the double of Wood Street Market’s iconic pink exterior, and even comes complete with a working black-and-white clock. 

Two more recently-funded mini food banks are set to be located at Blackhorse Workshop and 182 Northcote Road. 

If the final three boxes secure enough funding, Sean would be keen to hear from those who might like to host a box on their fence or wall – be it a residential address, business or community centre: in the St James Street area, between Forest Road and Walthamstow High Street, plus around Fulbourne Road/Chingford. 

It’s hoped they’ll be completed and in place by the end of summer 2021. 

As the project continues to snowball, it appears the mini food banks will become even more advanced – with a technological feature allowing the public to contact PL84U Al-Suffa when mini food banks are full. 

“One of the coolest things to be added are smart buttons,” Sean added. “By pressing a small bluetooth button in the box labelled ‘press me when the food bank is full’, the volunteers and I will receive an email. 

“Soon, we’ll also be able to send tweets from most of the boxes. Thanks to sponsor RS components and Flic Buttons, we are able to run a tiny computer called a Raspberry Pi, which connects to the internet in the host’s house.” 

To help fund more boxes or to see the map of locations, visit the official GoFundMe page

To keep following the progress of these mini food banks, visit @minifoodbankse17 on Instagram