Posted by Devenia Besant on 02 May 2020

⭐️Tell us a bit about you and the charity?

Hi I’m Jonathan and I head up the Epsom & Ewell Foodbank. We cover wider than just this borough, supporting people in Tadworth, Banstead, Leatherhead, Bookham, Fetcham, Ashtead and surrounding smaller areas. We have been open since October 2012 and have fed over 25,000 people. I am supported by a small but amazing staff team and a wonderfully passionate group of volunteers.

On average pre Covid we were feeding about 108 people a week, giving out about 1.2 tonnes of food and having face to face interaction with all of our clients, to help them to not need us. This covered a variety of areas from debt signposting to offering energy advice to encouragement to get work to counselling to many other areas. Our goal is to create a community where foodbanks are not needed. Sadly, the last 7 weeks have set us back massively.

⭐️ What’s changed for the charity since the outbreak of Covid – 19?

Everything seems to have changed! Since the start of March we have been feeding an average of over 220 people and giving out 2.5 tonnes of food every week. Early on, the massive surge depleted some of our stocks of food which meant we had to buy to cover some shortages. This was the first time we have ever had to do this in the 8 years we have been open. However, over the last 3 weeks donations have been incredible and our stocks are back and filled up.

We are still purchasing some items as and when needs arise such as milk (long life milk disappeared from the shelves for a while!), veg and fruit to ensure we can give out a balanced selection of food. We are also giving out many other unusual items for us, ie this week we were given 2,300 Innocent smoothies which have been flying out the door and as it was Easter, we got a lot of Easter eggs from organisations that were going to be running events but sadly couldn’t. These have been received really well. One family commented how it was their son’s birthday and the eggs put that smile back on his face.

⭐️ What are you and your team looking forward to when lockdown is over?

The main thing is to see work and demand calm down. This will allow us to get back to supporting people – to not need us. This will have changed but we believe with all the kindness that has been generated over this period (which has been amazing) it can lead to a hope for the future, communities working together, businesses with new processes and that is what we want to pursue.

We are still doing our Poverty Truth Commission work which is really important, as we need to hear the stories of people trapped in their homes at this time. The poverty hasn’t gone away and in many places it has just got worse. We have seen accounts of domestic abuse rise and heard many sad stories of people who have just lost their income, their identity and are losing hope.

Normality will never be the same again. Kindness and hope are two things we should all be able to offer to anyone that needs it, especially if it helps them to get back on their feet.

⭐️ Lastly what’s your positive message to others?

The end is getting closer, let’s look forward to supporting each other to get back on our feet, so that organisations like ours will not be a permanent feature of the landscape.

Personally, I’m looking forward to hanging out with friends and being able to give them a big hug – I think we all need one after what we have been through.

Thank you Jonathan for all that you and your team do for our community!

If you would like to donate to the foodbank you can do so here

Dee xx

Devenia Besant
Devenia (Dee) Besant is the founder of Epsom and Ewell Families. Runs a busy household as a mummy of 3 and a wife and some would say crazily committed to helping small businesses and the local community.

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