During the last week of the season, Palace players Joel Ward, Connor Wickham and several squad members from the Academy U18 and U23 teams volunteered at a food bank just four miles from Selhurst Park to lend a hand in the expansion of a project which is catering for increased demand from members of south London communities who are in crisis – people without food, and without money to eat.
In the UK, more than 14 million people are living in poverty – including 4.5 million children. There are more than 1,800 food bank centres in the UK which provide a minimum of three days’ nutritionally-balanced emergency food – free of charge - to people who have been referred in crisis, as well as support to help people resolve the crises they face.
In the last year, according to the Trussell Trust – a network of around 1,200 food banks - a record 1.6 million food supplies were delivered to people in crisis, up 19% from last year, and an eyewatering 73% increase in the last five years.
Ten per cent of these emergency food supplies were distributed to people in London.
One of the larger food banks of its type in the capital is the Norwood & Brixton Foodbank - an entirely independent charity which was formed by Elizabeth Maytom.
Maytom said: “In our foodbank alone, we’ve fed 10,000 people in the last year. We are moving into a bigger space to serve our community and also other neighbouring foodbanks in the area who don’t have the space that we’ve got.
“We rely solely on donations and volunteers to keep the centre running; there is no government nor council funding for such projects.”
Nearly thirty Crystal Palace players and staff were encouraged to visit the centre and help lend some much-needed manpower to support the project’s expansion into a larger space within their church base, to cater for increased demand in the local area. The players learned about the project and spent more than an hour organising food donations into use-by date order to help efficient distribution, before moving supplies into the main body of the church which also had to be cleared by moving several pieces of heavy furniture.
Joel Ward said of the experience: “You don’t have to go too far to find poverty. We all know there are some extreme cases around the world, but there are also extreme cases on our doorstep that we can help or prevent.”
A volunteer called Jane who works part-time at the food bank on a voluntary basis, said: “The food bank is very community-minded, and we are all very invested in making a difference. If we weren’t doing what we’re doing, I don’t really know what some of these people would do. They would be hungry. It’s especially heart-breaking that we give some of our vouchers to schools where teachers can decide whether or not a family needs our help, and they’ve identified that help because those children are hungry. It’s a very disappointing and depressing state of affairs, but there is a need for it.”
Watch the video below to see the lads lend a hand to a very good local cause.
U23 goal-keeper Dion Henry added poignantly: “There are people that struggle every day for food, and there are people like us who can go to the fridge and get what you want. This is an eye-opener for everyone I think. You see at home all the food you throw in the bin that will go to waste – if you just drop it off somewhere like here, or supermarkets do box collections - the amount of people you’d be helping out is ridiculous.”
How can you help?
Donate any of the following items which are in short supply to the Norwood & Brixton Food bank, by dropping off at St Margaret’s Church, Barcombe Ave, SW2 3BH:
- UHT Milk all sizes and types
- UHT Fruit Juice
- Tinned meat like corned beef, pies, curry
- Small bags rice/ cous cous
- Tinned custard
- Tinned rice pudding
- Toilet rolls
- Shower Gel
- Washing Powder
Want to volunteer or donate money? Please click here.