On Tuesday this week the Opportunity & Fairness Commission paid a visit to one of Croydon’s foodbanks.

The foodbank, located in Church Street, Central Croydon is run by Fatima Koroma. Ms Koroma set up the foodbank with a £1,200 start-up grant from Croydon Council four years ago. Since then it has served thousands of Croydon residents and now opens three days a week with up to 20 users visiting each day.

Commissioners James Gillgrass and Jeremy Frost led the visit.

Former GP James Gillgrass said: “It was great to see this vital community asset in action. It fulfills a real need that goes largely unseen. The Commission is exploring ways that community assets like this can be amplified and supported to have a greater social impact.”

The service users and volunteers they spoke to highlighted a range of reasons why people visit the foodbank. These included unemployment and under-employment, housing problems, and benefit sanctions.

One service user said he visits the food-bank because his benefits do not “meet all the bills”. Another long-term service user said he visits because he is unemployed and it also allows him to meet other people in the local community.

Commissioner, Jeremy Frost said: “Social isolation is one of the key issues the Commission is researching. It can be caused by unemployment, and services like this act as important social hubs as well as providing immediate help. They can help people back on their feet in so many ways.”

Commissioners also spoke to volunteers at the food-bank to hear their views.

One long-term volunteer, Trevor Burgess, said he believes that food banks will continue to exist for a long-time and that “the focus should be about how to give more help to people going through hard times”.

Fatima Koroma said: “It was good to see the Commission taking an interest in what we do. We all would prefer it if foodbanks weren't needed, but unfortunately more and more people need help. We are proud of what we are able to do for those who need it most and we look forward to seeing how the Commission can encourage those in the community to do more to help others.”

The visit was part of the Commission’s many public engagement events to hear from Croydon’s residents about how to make Croydon a fairer place with more opportunity.

As with all public engagement events, Commissioners will use the evidence they collected at the foodbank to inform their findings and their report recommendations.

The Commission’s Interim Report is due in September and the final report will be published in January next year.

If you are yet to make a submission to the Commission on how some of these challenges can be addressed, please email or write to Opportunity Croydon, co TCC, Suffolk House, George Street, Croydon CR0 1PE.


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