Giving is our goal this Christmas: introducing The Hub

access_time 2 weeks ago

For every Christmas party meal booked at Leyton Orient this Christmas, we will be giving back to Highams Park Food Aid, known as The Hub, to help deliver Christmas meal boxes to the E4 community.

We sat down with Tracey and Peter Rogers, founders of The Hub, and Jack Baldan, marketing volunteer, to learn more about the amazing work they do and how our Christmas parties will help support their festive meal programme.

The Hub on how it all started

Peter: “We started with 5 families in Easter 2020 – on Easter Sunday we thought we should go out and visit them and they were very pleased to see us. One woman was 91 years old, house bound and with no food in the house – and said on that day that she’d been sent angels! We didn’t feel angel-like – but right from the start we knew we were on the right track and doing some good stuff.

And then it just escalated rapidly. We were providing properly packed meals – 20 at first and then 100 meals three times a week. To cope with demand we hired a chef for a short while and he did 100 meals a day for several months. Then we went back to food packages and, at the height of it, we were doing 90-95 food packages three times a week.”

The Hub on who they support now

P: “It fluctuates up and down – but overall we support 200-250 families a week at the moment. We now support a number of sub-hubs – including at Friday Hill and the Peabody Estate – and we provide them fresh food on a weekly basis. We give them a share of the fresh fruit and veg we buy, as well as some of the loaves that Hovis give us each week – they are a big supporter. We also have a sub-hub at Leyton Sixth Form College and tend to support the students particularly who are living on their own in this country who have previously been or are currently asylum seekers.”

The Hub on how they’re different

P: “We’ve always been very focused on caring for the people – it’s hard enough to go to a food bank anyway, so we want to make it a very positive experience. So it runs like a café – they can get tea, coffee, a bit of cake or even a hot meal if they want it. We have a volunteer social worker and a professional debt counselling manager who are always available, so we try to add value and make it a nice place to come – rather than just ‘here’s your bag of food’.”

The Hub on their volunteers

Tracey: “We have about 70-80 volunteers who help us in different ways – on the reset teams, food pick-up teams, the Hub teams and the café team. We’ve also got a marketing team who are all professionals within their own right – we couldn’t do it without them and this is how we stand out and are different from other food banks.”

The Hub on the future

P: “There’s clearly a large long-term need – it is changing but we do want to keep the service going for those in need. There are an astonishing number of people who live below the poverty line in Waltham Forest – we will need to change our service but the church is fully behind the service and so we will go on.

In the next five years, I think we would hope that it would be broader within the community – one of the things about the café is that we don’t want people in need only to meet with people in need. We want everyone to meet and integrate all across the community, so I suppose the target would be to keep working so that we’re not a niche for people in need but it’s wider than that.”

T: “I think that’s why we called it the Hub, because we want it to be the hub of the community – for everything to revolve around the Hub.”

The Hub on Christmas

Jack: “The beneficiaries get their normal food packages as normal, and we run the Christmas hamper project as a top-up or addition. That will come in the form of a Christmas meal – they will get a turkey or chicken with all the trimmings; we make sure they have all the veg, all the snacks, all the sweets, so that it’s not just a case of some turkey slices and some ready-made gravy. We want to give a proper meal, so that everyone has the chance to enjoy a proper Christmas, like those of us fortunate enough to do it ourselves.

We did about 90 boxes last year – we spent hours individually wrapping each one of those boxes so that they looked like big Christmas gifts and we filled those boxes to the brim. I had the opportunity to deliver some of the boxes and it was fantastic – the looks on people’s faces were just amazing.”

The Hub on how to get involved and support

P: “We’re always looking for volunteers! We also put out a list every week of items that we need at that time, a sort of shopping list – so people can sign up to that if they want to donate specific items. If they want to donate, there is a donation section on the website – but if you save your pennies until the first week in December, we’ll be working with the Big Give who will match any donations made via them in the first week of December so we get double donations!”

Download our Christmas brochure for more details on Christmas 2021 at Leyton Orient and to view a sample menu. Please contact the Commercial Team for queries and bookings, by calling 020 8926 1006 or emailing [email protected].