Local poverty moves 12 year old to give up pocket money

Girl shopping

Merland Rise church caretaker told LDRS* reporter: “Last week a young girl, about 12 years old, came and knocked the door. She’d gone to Asda with her pocket money and spent it on food for the food bank. I was nearly in tears.”

Decision makers need to listen to the “lived experience” of people using food banks to tackle the root causes of poverty, according to one organiser. Tadworth’s Merland Rise church is home to a weekly food bank, as well as being one of Surrey County Council’s warm hubs, where people can go if they are struggling to heat their own homes.

Image: Staff, volunteers and councillors at Merland Rise church, which holds a weekly food bank and warm hub. Emily Coady-Stemp

While uptake on the warm bank had been slow, the modern church was still a hive of activity when the LDRS* visited in late November to talk to some of those involved. The food bank has seen a rise in its users, and has moved downstairs to a bigger room in the church, while organisers are sure that as people use the church for other activities, the news will start to spread about the warm hub.

The building, where warm hub visitors can get a tea or coffee and a hot meal, is large and modern, and used for many community activities. Its administrator Christina Lane said she probably takes the building for granted given she goes to church there every week. She recognised that many people were struggling at the moment, and didn’t want anyone to feel embarrassed about coming down. “There’s no shame, we just have to club together,” she said.

Jen Barnard is strategy lead at Good Company, which was established this year and is an umbrella organisation working with several food banks, the Epsom and Ewell Refugee Network and the Epsom Pantry among others.
She said there had been a rise in numbers of people using the food bank, compared to pre-pandemic levels, and that 10,000 food parcels have been given out this year across the five food banks in Banstead, Leatherhead, Tadworth, Epsom and Ewell.

Offering advice to those who visit on all aspects of their life, Ms Barnard said people may be referred on for mental health support, help with applying for disability benefits or advice on reducing energy consumption.
A key part of the work, she believes, is in listening to users and looking at what changes might help them.
“It seems like a small thing,” she said, “but listening to people and understanding that everyone is an individual, everyone is unique. And a willingness [is needed] to try to think in new ways, and trying to really hear what people are saying and respond to it.”

She said the organisation’s aim was to work towards a poverty-free future, but in the meantime to support those who needed it. “Very much a part of our strategy is participation and trying to bring together people with lived experience with decision makers, trying to say: ‘We can make changes locally that are going to improve people’s lives,’” she added.

Andrea Lewis is the Merland Rise church caretaker, who helps run the building including the many events that go on there, from the food bank to birthday parties, exercise classes and more. Speaking before December’s cold snap hit Surrey, she said the warm hub hadn’t really “kicked off” but she thought the word would spread as more people visited the church, including for a Surrey County Council bingo event taking place that afternoon.

Word spreading throughout the community also means people are being brought together at a time when many are struggling. Surrey County Councillor Rebecca Paul (Conservative, Tadworth, Walton & Kingswood) and Reigate and Banstead Borough Councillor Rod Ashford (Lower Kingswood, Tadworth and Walton) both recognise that people get a lot out of volunteering for projects such as the food clubs that run in the borough.

The borough council scheme offers people discounted food for an annual subscription of £1 and £2 payment to attend each week, giving people more ownership of the situation. Cllr Paul said: “In an ideal world we would hope that we wouldn’t have to do this.It does strengthen communities, it’s building the social fabric that these things are going on.”

The warm hub is open on Tuesdays from 10am-6pm, though it won’t be open on December 27.

*Epsom and Ewell Times BBC partner – Local Democracy Reporting Service.

Cover image – for illustration only.

Recycling for food

Catherine Banks tetra Cycle

A group of environmental volunteers in Surrey is helping support its local community by recycling items that the council cannot accept through their kerbside recycling bin collections. 

Catherine Banks, Founder of Tadworth TerraCycle, has signed up to a number of free recycling programmes offered by TerraCycle, collecting items including cheese packaging, Baylis & Harding products and packaging, and biscuit and snack wrappers that would ordinarily be destined for landfill or incineration. For each item of waste the group sends to TerraCycle, they are awarded with a monetary donation to the charities of their choice.

Pictured: Catherine Banks from Tadworth TerraCycle with two young volunteers and some of the items they have collected so far

The group has been raising money for charity since 2019 but recently its members have been prompted to donate funds to Epsom and Ewell Foodbank where they will be used for purchasing and sorting food and distributing it to those who need it most. More than £300 has been raised for the foodbank so far by collecting waste from the community via a public drop-off location in Tadworth. 

The Trussel Trust reported that deliveries of aid parcels were up 14 percent compared with pre-pandemic levels, amounting to more than 2.1m parcels in the year to April 2022, and with the growing cost of living crisis facing the UK, this number is likely to increase in the coming months.

Catherine explained: “We initially signed up to the TerraCycle programmes as a way to inspire the children at the local primary schools. By teaching them the importance of recycling and taking care of the environment at a young age we can ensure that the Earth will be in safe hands with future generations.

“One of the schools we work with decided they would like to support the food bank and unsurprisingly all the other schools agreed it was a good idea. The cost of living crisis is affecting so many people and giving to the foodbank is the best way to help those most in need.”

As well as the foodbank, the group also donates to other good causes including funding books for local schools and donating litter picking equipment to the local community group, and in the last 6 months more than £1,000 has been donated to the Dementia Society. 

Catherine continued “This really is a worthy cause so we encourage the entire community to get involved and drop these items at Tadworth Terracycle, 36 Bidhams Crescent, Tadworth. The more we recycle together, the more money we can raise for those who need it.”

The free recycling programmes which the group has signed up to include the Cathedral City Cheese Packaging Free Recycling Programme, the Baylis & Harding Free Recycling Programme and the Pladis (McVitie’s and Jacob’s) Biscuits and Snacks Free Recycling Programme.

The items the group sends to TerraCycle are recycled by shredding, cleaning and turning into plastic pellets which can then be used by manufacturers to create new plastic products such as outdoor equipment – reducing the need to extract new resources from the planet. 

Related reports:

Reaching recyclables others cannot reach …..

Will Epsom’s Foodbank ever end?

Jonathan Lees at Foodbank gala

A Gala fundraising dinner was held recently to recognise 10 years of Epsom & Ewell Foodbank, with guests encouraged to sign up to the new ‘End Poverty Pledge’. Nearly 200 people attended the Gala dinner to mark a decade since the doors first opened in October 2012, offering emergency food parcels to those in need.

Image: Jonathan Lees speaks at the 10 year Gala in the Queen Elizabeth II Stand Epsom Downs

Now ten years on, the food bank has five centres in Surrey and is incorporated into Good Company (Surrey) charity, which includes Epsom & Ewell Refugee Network, support services as well as Epsom Pantry which opened this year.

Good Company’s mission is to create a community free from poverty and the newly launched End Poverty Pledge aims to build a movement of people and organisations committed to doing what they can locally to reduce poverty.

One of the food bank founders – Jonathan Lees, said Epsom & Ewell Foodbank was started after he was told of a similar initiative in Kingston and heard of a family struggling to feed themselves in Epsom. It opened with one centre in Epsom and one in Ewell, adding Leatherhead and Tadworth in 2013 and Banstead in 2014.

Jonathan Lees said: “I remember putting the first tins on our first bit of racking in one of our little rooms in the office with founding volunteer Jackie McKee. I think we counted 10 tins of baked beans. Now we have more than 10 crates of baked beans in the store. Never did we think that 10 years down the line we would still be here. We still have the mission to close the food bank and end poverty in our community, but that is not going to happen this year.

“So, while we are still here, we will challenge what is happening and support local people to rebuild their lives and have hope for the future. To recognise the impact of what we have done we held the fundraising event and this saw the launch of the End Poverty Pledge, as we believe everyone in our community can do something to improve the lives of those experiencing financial hardship.

“It is definitely not a celebration but a mark of appreciation of all that has happened, all we do and the invaluable support of so many people in or community who donate food, resources and funds, especially our group of amazing volunteers who are our lifeline and keep it all going.”

Good Company (Surrey) is a Registered Charity no. 1197494
Good Company Hub Ruxley Lane Epsom KT18 0JG

Since they opened, the Epsom & Ewell Foodbank have helped feed more than 50,000 people. As the foodbank grew, so came the realisation that emergency food aid was not a long-term answer to poverty so in 2019, the East Surrey Poverty Truth Commission was launched to raise awareness of the drivers of poverty and ensure that those affected by poverty are central to decisions about how to tackle it. Phase 2 of the ESPTC will start in 2023.

Jonathan Lees said: “As we look ahead after 10 years, our vision is now focused on tackling the root causes of poverty and the hope of a future without the need for food banks.”

For more information and to take the End Poverty Pledge please visit

Courtesy Epsom and Ewell Foodbank.

Trading favours for Epsom’s Foodbank

Jonathan Lees of Epsom Foodbank

Surrey Trading Standards with Buckingham have donated 1,760 items and over £550 for the Epsom & Ewell Foodbank. The items donated include food, household cleaning supplies, personal care items and cash.
The donations are in celebration of Buckinghamshire and Surrey Trading Standards reaching the milestone of 150 Primary Authority Partnerships, making it the largest regulatory provider of Primary Authority services.

Image: Jonathan Lees of Epsom and Ewell Foodbank

Primary Authority is a means for businesses to receive assured and tailored advice in meeting various regulations through a single point of contact. This is invaluable for start-up businesses to get it right from the outset and enables all businesses to invest with confidence in products, practices, and procedures.

The landmark achievement comes off the back of Buckinghamshire and Surrey Trading Standards also winning the “Service Excellence Award” at the BEIS Regulatory Awards 2022.

Michele Manson, Business Team Manager at Buckinghamshire & Surrey Trading Standards said: “We’re delighted that we and our partners have been able to collate so many donations for Epsom & Ewell foodbanks. The work they do is so vital and it’s great that we have been able to aid them like this. We were determined to celebrate our recent achievements in a meaningful way that supported our local communities, and this has been the perfect way to do that.”

Jonathan Lees, Managing Director and Founder of Epsom and Ewell Foodbank said: “It’s great that Bucks & Surrey trading standards have worked with their business partners to make this donation, cooperation like this helps us to continue to provide vital emergency support to people in the local community.”

James Lowman, Chief Executive Association of Convenience Stores said: “Entering our partnership with Bucks & Surrey Trading Standards was one of the best decisions we have made, and it has continued to deliver every year. The quality of support from the team, has been consistently professional, pragmatic, and engaged. This has helped us to tackle new and existing compliance challenges with confidence.”

Business partners who have helped contribute donations include:
• Green Motion Car and Van Rental
• Delphic HSE Ltd.
• Natural Instinct Limited
• Coca Cola Europacific Partners
• Global Manuka UK
• E Scooter Professional LTD
• Solution EU Limited
• Bahlsen LLP
• Sports Supplement Ltd
• Creative Nature

For more information on Primary Authority Partnerships, please visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/primary-authority-overview
For more information on Epsom & Ewell foodbank please visit: https://epsomewell.foodbank.org.uk/

Surrey County Council News

How to help “low-incomes” with your £400

Pensioenrs with energy bill

The Epsom and Ewell Energy Support Scheme is a plan to offer those running into difficulties immediate help with their bills, and then advice and financial support to improve energy efficiency or reduce energy consumption in their homes and so reduce bills going forward. This might include buying a more efficient appliance for them or helping with improved insulation. The scheme is supported by local MP Chris Grayling

To help support this programme they are asking local households who have less difficulty paying for these higher energy bills to donate their £400 support payments to the fund so that it can be used to help reduce the bills of those who are struggling. If you are able to do this, they would be very grateful, and all other donations are of course also very welcome.

The Scheme is being run jointly by the Good Company, which runs the local food bank, and Citizens Advice Epsom & Ewell helped by local Churches. It will offer both advice sessions to help those who are not sure how to improve their energy efficiency as well as assistance paying for improvements.

To make a donation, please visit the donations page at www.justgiving.com/campaign/epsom-ewell-energy-support-scheme  

Foodbank feeding thoughts…

Counselling session one on one

Gillian Nichols of Epsom and Ewell Foodbank writes: What price do you put on mental health? Among the people that visit foodbanks, many have severe mental health issues due to traumatic experiences, poor circumstances, and often unaddressed medical issues they’ve faced in their lives. At Epsom Foodbank we have a higher motive than simply feeding the people who need us.

Epsom and Ewell Foodbank logo

We want to help reduce the need for our Foodbank services through addressing the cause of the problem, not just the problem itself. And we are already doing this very successfully.
Our outstanding counselling service has been sitting alongside the foodbank, working with clients to help them move on from their problems towards independence and work.
It’s hard for many of us to understand the plight of the people we help. It is best described in their own words which you can read at the end of this letter.
To have a qualified Counsellor available at our Foodbank is a huge asset which has changed lives. We really want to do more of this. But we need funding in order to do it. And it doesn’t take a huge amount. In fact, just £50 per month would make all the difference.
A partnership or donation from your company can enable our Counsellor to keep working with people, building their confidence, and helping them escape from dependence by listening, offering therapy services, and having them know someone is there and looking out for them.
Everyone knows the importance of mental health, and how poor mental health lies at the root of so many social issues. If you can help support this incredible life-changing service, contact gillianaudreynichols@gmail.com

Portrait Gillian nichols counsellor Epsom and Ewell foodbank

A Good Company life saved

Harris with Lees at the opening of Epsom Pantry

Harris came to the volunteers at Epsom and Ewell’s Foodbank for help at the end of last year. Epsom and Ewell Foodbank is operated by registered Charity The Good Company (Surrey) and is directed by local hero Jonathan Lees. Over the past two years, Harris has recovered from a major heart operation and a stroke. This completely changed his life as previously he had loved running and being active. The stroke also really knocked his confidence and so he had become withdrawn.

Photo shows Jonathan Lees (left) and Harris (right) with other Epsom Pantry volunteers at its opening.

The charity started to offer him opportunities to participate in focus groups, which he enjoyed being part of. They supported him in a back-to-work interview, liaising with agencies (including the Council, Citizens Advice and his GP). They supported him with his Personal Independence Payment (PIP) application to the Department of Work and Pensions, which has recently been awarded.

Harris was recently introduced to The Epsom Pantry and he has started to volunteer there. The staff say he is a real asset there. He is also a very calming presence for customers and Harris absolutely loves it as it has given him a new purpose.

Harris said “I thought of committing suicide before I met Alison (one of the support workers) but she gave me food, help and hope that things could be better, I couldn’t have gone on without her. I am born again. I don’t know how I would manage if it wasn’t for her, the Foodbank and The Pantry, (these) guys are like family, greatly appreciated. Blessed Love.”

For more information on Epsom Pantry please contact Bex pantry@goodcompany.org.uk

The Foodbank has two vacancies at the moment:

Vacancy – Pantry Coordinator

An exciting vacancy for our new project – Epsom Pantry. Now officially open, our Pantry is a members-only shop.

For £5 members will be able to purchase a weekly food shop including fresh fruit and vegetables and family favourites to stock up the cupboard and fridge.

We are recruiting a Pantry Coordinator to work with our Pantry Manager on this exciting new initiative.

For more details and to apply, please click here.

Closing date is 24 July 2022 at 23:59

Vacancy – Foodbank Manager

An exciting opportunity to join our team. We are recruiting for a Foodbank Manager. Interested? More info and application details here.

Closing date is 30 July 2022 at 23:30

Foodbank latest

28th July 2022

Our urgent needs list – 28th July 2022:Thank you to those who arranged supermarket deliveries directly to us last week, we really appreciate getting donations we need this way.We have completely run out of:Chocolate spreadChocolatePowdered milk

We urgently need:Tinned vegetablesTinned fishNoodlesPasta sauceCooking sauceBrown sauceSmall bags of sugarSponge puddingLong life fruit juiceSquashBiscuitsRice puddingChildren’s treats – Freddo’s, chocolate buttons etc.Sanitary towelsAdult toothbrushesBaby wipesNappies – size 5, size 6 and size 6+Washing powderHousehold cleaning products – antibac spray, cleaning wipes, oven cleaner etc. (No bleach please!)Please no more of these items as we are fully stocked:
Pulses, pasta, beans, rice, washing up liquid, cat food, dog food, peanut butter, milk UHT, non-dairy milk.
Booking a supermarket delivery? Let us know when to expect it. You can donate at the usual supermarket points, or bring donations to our car park (please wear a mask);Epsom & Ewell Foodbank, Good Company Hub, (Behind West Ewell Primary School), Ruxley Lane, Ewell KT19 0JGDonation drop off times: Monday to Friday 9am – 2pm. We are closed on Bank Holidays.* Please make sure all donations are sealed, in date and do not contain alcohol*