Community kindness helps CREst to feed hundreds of people during the Covid-19 crisis

By Yvonne Winborn

CREst (Cambridge Road Estates Community Group), a charity that exists to look after the health and wellbeing of Cambridge estate’s residents, has fed hundreds of local people in need since the beginning of lockdown three months ago.

As many foodbank outlets in churches were forced to close their doors at the start of lockdown, CREst increased its offering at its foodbank at Piper Hall to accommodate the extra people in need.

Listed in the top 2% of most deprived areas nationally with an estimated refugee population of 38%, the Cambridge Road Estates have been severely affected by the pandemic.

In addition to this the charity says that it became so overwhelmed with requests for food from people from the wider Kingston area that it has now extended its offering to Norbiton ward.

Jill Preston, Chair of CREst, said: “Every week we are currently feeding about 150 people at the foodbank in Piper Hall, plus offering hot meals to a further 30 people.

“The Foodbank morphed out of our Tuesday Group where we previously offered donated food every week thanks to our partnership with Sainsbury’s.

“Until recently we issued Foodbank vouchers to those in need which they took to one of the Foodbank outlets in the area. However many of them were run from churches which are now closed so we are doing our best to plug the gap for these people.

“We have now joined forced with Voices of Hope, Foodbank and City Harvest to satisfy the additional need for food, and have set up JustGiving as we also need to shop for items that we are short of.

“To say we are stretched is an understatement. We are feeding a large number of refugees who often face challenges accessing Universal Credit, along with many more homeless people who would normally be given food by passers-by in the town centre, but of course the town is empty so now they come to us.

“We are also seeing people who ordinarily would never ask for help; people who had steady jobs prior to lockdown but have now found themselves on the breadline. You can tell these people are mortified to be asking for help.

“I cannot turn people in need away so we have made the decision to extend our foodbank offering to Norbiton ward residents.”

Reaching out to more people has been made possible thanks to a donation from UK Homebuilders Countryside, but the charity says it still urgently needs donations.

CREst is particularly keen for more pulses, legumes, lentils (dried or tinned), plus fruit and vegetables and any homemade healthy snacks and baked goods for children to snack on.

Jill said: “We have a wonderful community of kind people here in Kingston, and I can’t thank them enough for their generosity, but in light of the current crisis where we do not know what the future holds, we need all the donations we can get.”

The foodbank at Piper Hall is open from 12pm til 2pm every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. And the charity requests that donations be made during these times.

(Residents are allocated a Unique Food pantry number and will be able to use this weekly to receive a food package. All that is needed is Name, Address and phone number plus how many children and adults are living in the household.  There is one voucher per household. Residents are advised that the food boxes are quite heavy so help or a trolley might be useful).

For more details on how to help CREst please contact 07910 844427.

To donate please go to https://www.justgiving.com/crecg