Women’s Inclusive Team (WIT) has secured a long-term lease on their new premises for their community kitchen and food bank that will allow them to continue supporting the vulnerable residents of Tower Hamlets.

Due to the refurbishment of their head office in Bancroft Estate, WIT were scheduled to move into Mayfield House, Bethnal Green in September 2020, but because of the urgent need of their Covid-19 services and as acknowledgement of the outstanding work WIT has done over the past eight weeks, Tower Hamlets Council has agreed to bring their tenancy forward to June 2020.

In response to the Covid-19 crisis in March, WIT established a community kitchen to serve evening hot meals to residents affected by the pandemic. Since launching the kitchen, they have provided 5,050 daily hot meals to 192 vulnerable people around Tower Hamlets from their temporary location at the St. Paul’s Way Community Centre in Poplar.

Their Covid-19 response has also included setting up a food bank, at Linc Community Centre in Poplar, to provide essential supplies including toiletries, cereals, tinned goods, fresh fruit and vegetables, and long-life milk to vulnerable residents. Their foodbank has delivered 1,912 food parcels since launching on 8 April 2020.

Their two locations at St. Paul’s Way Community Centre and the Linc Community Centre were donations in kind from Poplar HARCA and will resume their regular services as the lockdown regulations ease.

WIT will continue their fantastic work supporting vulnerable residents in Tower Hamlets from their new location of Mayfield House, Bethnal Green from July 2020. The building, in the heart of Tower Hamlets, has an operating commercial kitchen, breakout areas and a large reception space that means they can continue to cook hot meals, organise a weekly food bank and offer even more essential services to the local community in the near future.

Alongside the community kitchen and food bank, WIT has established a befriending service and recruited over 30 volunteers to make over 220 phone calls a day. Through this service, they have provided safeguarding referrals and emergency medical assistance, including a number of mental health sections. A recent survey revealed that nearly 70 percent of their beneficiaries would not have access to hot meals, should this service end.

Alexandra Staskova, a community navigator in the public health division of Tower Hamlets Council said of the work WIT has done: “We’ve had lots of positive feedback from the clients we referred to WIT. They have found the hot meals, daily phone-calls, help with shopping and food bank delivery extremely helpful.”

She went on to say, “Those were people suffering from physical and/or mental health difficulties, shielding from coronavirus, often isolated, lonely and struggling to get help. WIT’s service has been really impressive – accessible and accommodating, reliable and quick to respond. The daily phone-calls have been a massive operation, and for some people, it was that one occasion when they spoke with another human being.”

Ensuring that all minority groups can access the services is central to WIT’s mission. Their Covid-19 response data shows that 70 percent of the people they have helped are Somali, 20 percent are Bangladeshi, and five percent are white British.

Sahra Mire, WIT trustee said, “WIT has supported a high number of residents from the BAME community, particularly Somalis – a minority within the larger BAME community, but the largest black community in Tower Hamlets – who are often seen as being hard to reach. Due to this, WIT’s Covid-19 response has supported Somalis who do not have access to mainstream services because of cultural and language barriers, and a lack of trust in local authorities.

“This group continues to face barriers and inequalities, which we will strive to identify and rectify in order to bring much-needed change.”

WIT will be recruiting more volunteers to assist in their new Bethnal Green location, to work in their community kitchen, to make deliveries of hot meals and food bank parcels, and to accomplish upcoming community projects. Anyone interested in joining the volunteer team, can get in touch by emailing: volunteer@wit.org.uk

WIT are accepting donations of any sort. They regularly need takeaway containers, fresh fruit and vegetables, halal meat, flour and PPE equipment (gloves and masks) for their volunteers.

They need donations for their community kitchen, befriending service and food bank. Donations can be made via their GoFundMe page https://www.gofundme.com/f/wit-food-bank-and-community-kitchen-fundraiser