Purley Food Hub first opened to clients on Tuesday January 15th 2013, and today marks 10 years of providing food to local people in crisis.
In that time food for more than 285,000 meals has been distributed. December 2022 was our busiest month ever, with more than 5,600 meals provided.

In this special feature, Trevor Jones, our Chair of Trustees, assesses the current situation; Nigel Prior recalls our very first client; Helen Harris, a former Trustee who helped set up the Food Hub, looks forward to its closure; we record some of the milestones along the way; and we close with a prayer that local churches have been asked to offer up today.

A birthday to mark, though not to celebrate

By Trevor Jones,
Chair of Trustees

10 years of a food bank is probably nothing to celebrate, as sadly I think that food banks and community food shops and other ways for people to access free or low-cost food are here to stay in these days of high inflation and poor economic performance.

We do give thanks for God’s provision through all our volunteers, donors and supporters. It has been amazing how we’ve been able to meet so many needs, both with food and in other ways.

Covid forced us to rethink how we worked, so for nearly three years we have been operating on a deliveries-only basis to keep clients and volunteers safe. It has also meant working more closely with partner food banks and food stops in the south of the borough.

We have truly become a hub, sharing what we have, be it cash or food, and giving regular support to our partner organisations at The Vine food bank in New Addington and the Food Stops St Francis Church, Selsdon, and Old Lodge Lane Baptist Church, Purley, and with occasional support further afield within the borough of Croydon.

We will continue to seek ways of sharing the bounty we have been blessed with.

There have been challenging times since the first client stepped across the Food Hub threshold at Purley United Reformed Church in January 2013.

But the feedback we continue to receive from clients, ticket partners and partner organisations makes it all worthwhile, knowing we are doing what we have been called to do in fulfilling the initial vision given to the local clergy back in 2012.

Our first client – moved to tears by kindness

Our very first client was referred to us by Nigel Prior from Langley House Trust, a Christian organisation devoted to helping ex-offenders. Nigel later recalled:

Stephen had recently been released from prison and despite poor health walked a round trip of four miles from his hostel in Croydon to collect his food parcel.

He was in his late 40s and had a long history of prison sentences. His marriage had broken down and he wasn’t in touch with his children. He had no access to money for food or anything.

We had a book of Food Hub tickets and I suggested he might like to come to the Food Hub.

At first he was too proud, even though he was going without food, but we persuaded him. He had difficulty walking but he walked the two miles to Purley, received three bags of food and walked the two miles back. He was overwhelmed by the care and kindness he was shown and left in tears.

He was so proud of the food he received. He laid it all out in his bedroom on a chest of drawers.

The food gave him the ability to hang on in and start to feel he could cope. If he hadn’t received food he would have gone back to crime.

Over the next two and a half years he went back to the Food Hub several times, and also received bus tickets so he didn’t have to walk back. He moved to another house in Battersea nearer to his children, then got an interview for a flat and moved into his own flat in Battersea.

I don’t think he would have succeeded without the Food Hub’s support. You were there when he needed you most.

I pray for the day we are no longer needed

By Helen Harris, founder member and former Trustee

It is nearly 12 years since God breathed the Food Hub into being through the Purley and Kenley clergy. It was a long and difficult journey at times to plan and set up an independent food bank but after 18 months, in January 2013, with God’s help and amazing, talented volunteers we did!

It’s sad we still have to be open 10 years later.

But the truth is there are more and more people in our community who are hungry and desperately need our help.

In another way, though, it’s great because through many people’s sacrificial giving of time, food and money, we can provide an efficient service that blesses those in need.

I pray for the day we can close down because it will mean that everyone has enough money to buy the food they need for themselves and their families.

Milestones along the way

first newsletter
The first newsletter for volunteers and supporters went out in February 2013
January 12th 2013
Official launch of Purley Food Hub by the Bishop of Croydon, the Rt Revd Jonathan Clark. First food parcels collected by clients three days later.
July 2013
Purley & Kenley Churches Together Food Hub registered with the Charity Commission as charity number 1152807.
March 2015
2,231 people fed in past year, 5,270 to date.
August 2017
Passed 10,000 people fed and 90,000 meals provided.
December 2017
100,000th meal provided. Busiest month to date: 4,000+ meals provided, 30% up on December 2016.
December 2018
Busiest year yet: 30,000+ meals overall.
July 27th 2019
150,000th meal issued.
December 21st 2019
New busiest ever session – 1,098 meals provided.
April 2020
New home delivery service launched in response to Covid-19 pandemic.
September 23rd 2020
200,000th meal landmark passed.
December 2020
Almost 49,000 meals provided in 2020, highest yearly total to date and 60% more than 2019.
December 2021
5,184 meals delivered, the highest monthly figure to date. Yearly total of 48,987 meals is the highest ever.
January 22nd 2022
All-time total of meals provided passes 250,000.
December 2022
Monthly record broken again – 5,634 meals delivered for 626 clients and family members. Record number also of pre-Christmas donations – more than 15,000 items received.

Closing prayer

To mark our 10th anniversary the Food Hub’s Trustees are planning a Thanksgiving Service during 2023. In the meantime we have asked the 12 churches that make up Purley & Kenley Churches Together, as well as supporting churches in South Croydon, Sanderstead, Coulsdon and beyond, to consider including the prayer points below during their services today:

Heavenly Father, this month marks 10 years’ faithful service by Purley Food Hub in providing food to local people and families in crisis.

We pray for all of those in our local community facing unemployment, ill health, isolation or money worries, especially those who cannot afford enough to eat.

We thank you for your mighty provision – for the generosity over these past 10 years of so many churches, schools, community organisations, individuals and families who donate food and money. We thank you also for the Food Hub’s volunteers who give so unstintingly of their time and energy.

We pray for the day the Food Hub can eventually close its doors because that will mean everyone has enough money to buy the food they need.

In the meantime, we pray for the Food Hub’s clients, that they may find hope and release from their current circumstances, and that through the food and support they receive they will also taste something of your great love for them.

We also pray that they may know that you are a God who sees their immediate need and cares passionately about their future.

In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.