I am a second-generation Palestinian refugee who migrated to the UK three years ago to study and build a new home. When COVID-19 started, everyone around me was very keen to get back to their homes. It was worrying, but I decided I'd prefer to stay in London and help in any way that I could. A flyer for my local mutual aid group (North Bermondsey Community Support) came through my door and I decided to get involved.
Before long, I found myself part of the coordinating team. With the pandemic heating up, our team of locals urgently required a quick solution for our administrative management. We started learning how to design and build websites. Within three weeks, and with a small team, we were able to build a back-end system for case management which we launched to all the mutual aid groups across North Bermondsey.
Soon after, we found that one of the biggest problems facing our communities was food poverty. A recent report by the Food Foundation found that more than 8 million people around the UK are facing food insecurity. This problem has been exacerbated by COVID-19, with food banks reporting more than five times their usual demand. To help ease this, we started setting up hyper-local food donation stations in people’s buildings, on their streets and in their local supermarkets.
Mutual aid groups across Southwark became interested in the project and we created a collaborative effort which we have called the Funnel Support Network. Funnel collects food from hyperlocal donation stations and divides donations between local food banks based on their demand. Local food banks, such as Pecan, Albrighton Community Centre and St George the Martyr, then handle the distribution of food. Our team does this all in one day, in one van, and without needing a warehouse to store food before redistribution. With only 20 running donation stations, the project has managed to gather around 4.9 cubic meters of food since it began in April.