Emergency food provision has sadly become necessity under this Tory Government, but it can only go so far. That’s why as a councillor for an deprived part of the East End, I was delighted to support the Food Store project in Mile End in Tower Hamlets. People are referred based on need by partner agencies and housing associations. Residents pay a £3.50 weekly fee giving them access to the store, and in return, they receive approximately £30 of groceries plus fresh fruit and vegetables.

Granted there’s nothing about new about community shops as such – they go to the core of what the co-operative movement is about after all – but where this perhaps differs from other initiatives is that membership is dependent on engagement with support services offering debt management, wellbeing advice and employment support. The Food Store is therefore about more than handouts, it is part of a holistic approach to tackling the problem of poverty. Building resilience, community cohesion, improve family incomes, and income maximisation are at the heart of what we were seeking to do.

The origins of the project were novel too. The Burdett Mutual Aid group sprung up in response to the pandemic, and at the centre of the group was the Burdett Football Club which lead the way by running a food bank providing emergency relief for families. Grassroot organisations know better than most how precarious food security is for the families and communities they serve. Backed by the Labour Mayor at the time and a local housing association, the food store was a pilot project; it speaks to its success that other community shops are cropping up in the Borough. And yet the first and original scheme is under threat. Whilst I welcome the pledge from the current Mayor to fund similar schemes across Tower Hamlets, I urge continued support for the original project on the Burdett estate.