Just before 10:30am on a glorious Saturday morning, we arrive on Broadwater Farm Estate to meet workers from The Felix Project, who pull up in a van. The Felix Project collects food from supermarkets and suppliers that cannot be sold and distributes it across the capital, ensuring it reaches those who need it most.
We’ve been working on the estate since last summer. Normally the food we collect would be offered out alongside drop-in bike sessions with young people as part of our youth-led initiative, Your Bike Project. Since lockdown began, we’ve suspended all of our usual group activities. However, we’re continuing to coordinate the weekly food deliveries on Broadwater Farm to support efforts to help the most vulnerable.
The food arrives in crates. This week, offerings include fresh fruit, yoghurt, healthy ready meals, bread and spring onions. We lay out the crates two metres apart, pulling the freshest produce into the shade, so that people can browse at a safe distance and collect what they want.
Despite the beautiful weather, the estate is quiet. Over the course of the morning, we meet a steady stream of estate residents and staff. Some are passerbys; others have collected food on previous Saturdays and have come especially. People take food for themselves and also their friends and neighbours. They are polite and kind to us and each other, observing social distancing. Through our chats, we deepen our knowledge of the estate; who might need help and who wants to offer it.
Security staff come in clusters, cheerful and friendly. We find out that they’re not local; one woman, who took food for herself and her neighbour, travels in from Barking.
We speak at length with one of the estate’s street cleaners who’s been working on Broadwater Farm for 17 years. Originally from Lancashire, we find out that he’s deeply committed to the people who live on the estate. He shares his experience of the lockdown, explaining he knows some of the most vulnerable residents. He hopes that some positives will come out of the situation and offers to help in any way he can.
We also meet a resident, full of warm energy, who we discover is part of the Broadwater Farm fabric. She’s a part-time carer and volunteers for the church of reconciliation and a migrant support charity. She expresses an interest in helping us in future weeks. I have time, she tells us with a big smile.
Eventually, the food is almost all collected and we pack up. We’ll be back next Saturday and the ones after that where we hope to work with residents and staff to reach those who most need help.