Huge increase in residents using Brent Food Bank in Kilburn

Michele Lawrence from Brent Food Bank (right) with Tracey Henry from ASDA Wembley

Michele Lawrence from Brent Food Bank (right) with Tracey Henry from ASDA Wembley - Credit: Archant

Financially strapped families seek help to feed themselves

Ask most people what they know about Food Banks and the answer would probably be very little.

You could be forgiven for thinking that in the seventh richest country in the world they were unnecessary or under used.

But a recent report by Food Bank operators the Trussell Trust revealed that visits have in fact more than quintupled since 2010 with demand at unprecedented levels.

Among the organisations seeing first hand the huge increase in usage is Brent Food Bank (BFB) in Kilburn.

Run by a small team of volunteers, the centre operates from Christchurch Church in Willesden Lane and according to manager Michele Lawrence the time has come to increase awareness.

“When we first started two years ago we would see around five people in a day and that was considered busy” – she told the Times.

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“Now, on certain days, we are seeing 50 or more – before Christmas we saw 75 people and a normal three hour session overran by two hours because there were too many people to see.”

The Food Bank works on a referral based system whereby specialist organisations including Brent Citizens Advise Bureau (CAB) and GP units refer those in need to the service.

They are given a voucher which volunteers at the bank then use to determine how much and what food to provide.

BFB first opened two years ago in Harlesden but moved to Kilburn earlier this year because a larger space was required.

According to Ms Lawrence, the volunteering has provided an insight into the struggles people are facing in the current climate.

She said: “I think there is still a perception that no wealthy country would have a need for food banks.

“To be honest, I would probably have thought that before I started working here but residents are really finding it difficult.

“People are living side by side and are completely unaware of how much others are struggling, you may stop to talk to someone in the street who seems fine on the outside but on the inside they are really suffering.”

Ms Lawrence said residents have walked from miles away to pick up food from the bank while others have broken down in tears unaware that the service was available.

“It’s not just something that’s refined to the poorer areas people are coming to us from all around, young and old” – she added.

The bank is currently open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1-4pm and food is collected from supermarkets including ASDA in Wembley and schools and churches.

Efforts are currently being made to get further GP surgeries and community organisations on board to provide people with voucher cards and there are plans to expand in the future.

For now though, their time is being spent on continuing to provide a vital service to those in need.

“We just want to help as much as we can” Ms Lawrence added.

For more information on Brent Food Bank go to: