The people of Raynes Park and Wimbledon Hill Ward have come together once again to collect for the Wimbledon Foodbank whose supplies were running dangerously low over the Christmas period. They had heard that there was only two days of food left and a 70% rise in demand. This group of locals first started collecting for the Foodbank at the start of lockdown in Spring 2020, coordinated by fellow resident Rustom Framjee.  

Framjee works as a safari consultant but when leisure and travel industries ground to a halt Rustom volunteered with his local community group. On the WhatsApp chat he saw appeals to help the Wimbledon Foodbank in the Wimbledon Village area and decided to get involved, using his jeep. Soon after his first collection he realised there was nothing covering the Wimbledon Hill or Raynes Park wards, so proceeded to set up a second collection himself.

Creating a new WhatsApp group of local volunteers and placing posters around the community, he encouraged people to leave bags of food donations on their doorsteps once a week. These people in turn would contact neighbours, local groups, church congregations and the numbers of donation bags grew and grew.

Framjee explains, “A lot of people are happy to give to a cause like this but don’t want the hassle of donating, so I remove the hassle element. All they need to do is fill out a quick form and then leave their food donation outside on a Thursday.

“To date I have made collections from 730 doorsteps. In many cases a single collection can be half a carload of items as the donors have now got their entire roads involved.”

The Wimbledon Foodbank is based at the Elim Pentecostal Church on Kingston Road. Opened in 2011 it is funded by local churches and community groups in the Merton area. According to the Trussell Trust, which runs the Wimbledon Foodbank, 20% of people in the UK live below the poverty line. The need for food parcels was highest in the peak of lockdown in 2020, the Trussell Trust states they distributed 2.5 million food parcels between April 2020 and March 2021.

Framjee explains that his collections became a community effort, “The donors would fill out my form which automatically generates a spreadsheet of contacts. I then input the addresses into RouteXL, a mapping software, so I can calculate the most fuel-efficient route for all the stops. I then send my live location to the WhatsApp group along with a route planner, so people know when to expect me and many like to say hello. At its peak there were 20 to 30 stops, which required multiple trips. When I get to the Foodbank I take a photo for the group, it is usually about 5 or more full size shopping trolleys.”

The need for weekly collections tailed off during 2021 but in mid-December Framjee received a message from the Wimbledon Foodbank that the situation was dire. They had only two days of supplies left and Christmas is one of their busiest times.

Framjee thinks that there will continue to be a need going forward, “Covid alongside other factors will make life difficult for many. I am told that the £20 drop in universal credit together with a rise in utility costs is having a big impact.”