Volunteers in Selsdon shift their work from food to support

As – for better or for worse – the government eases coronavirus lockdown conditions, so some of the mutual aid groups and food banks which sprang up around the borough three months ago are now being wound up.

The Food Hub team deliver supplies to the Monks Hill Food Stop service

Age UK Croydon, based in Thornton Heath, announced over the weekend that it was closing its coronavirus emergency foodbank.

And the Selsdon Food Hub is now pivoting the services it has been providing to the isolated and vulnerable.

“Although we are stepping down a few services this week, we will continue to give elderly and vulnerable residents regular befriending calls,” Andy Stranack, the manager of the Selsdon Contact charity which was among the many groups that came together to help their neighbourhood cope with the pandemic.

Over 14 weeks, it is reckoned that the Selsdon Food Hub delivered more than 2,000 meals, developed a network of street champions to help neighbours in every road in Selsdon, and made more than 5,000 “befriending calls” by phone to the elderly and vulnerable.

Among the groups which came together in Selsdon were the London Fire Brigade, Aldi, Sainsbury’s, Croydon High School, 3 Gents Event Catering, Selsdon Baptist Church, Rotary Club, Croydon Jubilee Church, St Francis Monks Hill, Selsdon Residents’ Association and St John the Divine.

Kanan Gayward from Selsdon’s Sainsbury’s made 50 of the face coverings given out to residents.

Jaz Potter, from the Croydon Jubilee Church who helped co-ordinate the project, said, “I will never forget the days I went to buy shopping for the emergency food bags and people standing in the queue offered to pay the bill. The individual and corporate acts of kindness have been incredible.

“From this week we have stopped the weekly ready meal deliveries and we stopped our Zoom quiz a couple of weeks ago. Most people have now got regular food deliveries sorted out through friends and family or online. To make it easier for people to get out and about, we included a face mask with each food delivery this week.”

All the facemasks have been made by locals in Selsdon.

“A lot of the street champions are keen to continue helping their neighbours,” Potter said, “and if anyone needs an emergency shopping bag we will partner with the Food Stop service run by St Francis Church to get them one. We plan to keep the basic infrastructure in place until the UK has been given the ‘All Clear’ from covid-19.”

And Stranack, who is also a ward councillor for Selsdon Vale and Forestdale, said, “The covid-19 crisis has been a real challenge and tragic for many families across Croydon. At the same time, it has been inspiring to see different individuals and groups come together in love to help their neighbours. I think Selsdon has been a shining example of this.

Some of the dozens of volunteers from Selsdon Food Hub gathered at the local fire station, where staff helped with many of the weekly deliveries

“We also recognise that people living on their own are missing human interaction at the moment. Over the next couple of weeks, Selsdon Contact will be trialling a new service which will allow a volunteer to take some coffee and cake to residents and have a socially distant ‘cuppa and chat’ in their garden or front lawn.”

Anyone wanting to volunteer for this project can get in touch through the Selsdon Contact website or telephone 020 8651 4944.

About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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