Tackling food insecurity in Inter Faith Week
This week is Inter Faith Week! Inter Faith Week is a time each year to strengthen inter faith relations at all levels, celebrate the contribution that faith groups make to their neighbourhoods and to wider society, and to increase understanding between people of religious and non-religious beliefs.
Activity takes place all across the country, ranging from events and lectures to art exhibitions and competitions. Various local inter faith forums and networks mark the week, and FaithAction had the great pleasure of being involved in Inter Faith Week activities in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.
Tower Hamlets Inter Faith Forum held an event in Bethnal Green, focused on food insecurity and the ongoing cost of living crisis. The borough has the highest rate of child poverty in London, and almost half of the older population are in low income households. The Inter Faith Forum invited council representatives, faith leaders, local organisations, community partners and local residents to come together to discuss the challenges and solutions in addressing the crisis.
Vincent Wood, Senior Cost of Living Officer at Tower Hamlets Council gave an overview of the support that the council provides, and the prospect of building more referral pathways between local organisations and the council, acknowledging that faith groups are often the first point of call for vulnerable residents, and highlighted the borough’s Community Cupboard scheme that provides vital items such as nappies and hygiene products with staff to support the people that access the service, along with other initiatives that are in place to offer help.
The Warm Welcome programme was highlighted by local faith leader Reverend James Olanipekun, who pointed out that most places of worship are offering a ‘warm welcome space’ without even realising it.
Discussion around food support followed, with representatives from Bow Foodbank, a service that has existed in the borough for almost ten years and was founded by local churches, synagogue and gurdwara and Neighbours in Poplar, who work to support older people in need.
Many issues were discussed in the room, including the challenge of providing services when there is “no one size fits all” approach for people in need, that extensive mapping work is in order to ensure all food services are linked up, and that many people facing loneliness and isolation need company as well as food.
It is clear to see that faith groups in Tower Hamlets are part of a vital network of different food support in the borough, and offer their services beyond their congregations to the whole community, and will be very much in need again this coming winter.