In this issue we are interviewing St Luke’s Community Engagement Manager Carol-Ann, who now manages St Luke’s Food Hub, distributing food to hundreds of beneficiaries each week from the Centre. Our Food Hub operates from money donated through our Just Giving campaign, donations from corporate partners and trusts including the London Community Response Fund and Arsenal Foundation and generous weekly food deliveries from the Felix Project, FareShare, London Borough of Islington and City Harvest.

Read Carol-Ann’s insights into setting up and running a much-needed Food Hub project at this challenging time.

Tell us about your job role as a Community Engagement Manager at St Luke’s?

I have almost forgot what my previous job was! Well, to sum it up shortly, it was to engage with the community, for St Luke’s as an organisation to better engage with the demographics in south Islington, to bring in more families from different backgrounds and younger people together. Also working collectively with other organisations in the area, build partnerships work, to provide services, particularly for the under 55s. My colleague Cathy does a similar role, but she provides services for over 55s, so St Luke’s covers all age groups.

With the Covid-19 situation this all changed and you set up St Luke’s Food Hub. Can you tell us about that?

Yes, at the beginning of lockdown, I was thinking that my role did not fit in to what St Luke’s wanted to achieve at that time, but then I took over the small amount of food that St Luke’s were already distributing, mainly with the aim to reduce food waste. Then we spoke, in particular, to local families and young people and realised there was an urgent need to help people with foods and essential items. We started to build on our network of contacts with various food organisations and charities and started to fundraise to buy food for our local community. The first week we had 45 beneficiaries visiting the Food Hub, we now have over 500+ a week, and it’s growing.  


What has been the biggest challenge with the Food Hub?

It’s making sure that we have enough food for everyone. And have the right food for that person. But not only food, for example also nappies, shampoo, deodorant are also so important for people’s self-esteem. Hygiene poverty is often forgotten about.

Tell us about a memorable moment managing the Food Hub?

There have been so many…but just to mention two of them.

Once when me and other volunteers filmed a mad “happy dance session” for our social media channels, we laughed and laughed until our bellies hurt so much – like kids! It was so much fun! You need to do that sometimes.

In general what will always stay in my mind is when you come across people who visit the Food Hub (or any food bank) for their first time, you can very often see the pain in their eyes – and it’s a challenge for them (or anyone) to stand in a queue for 30 minutes and more or wait to be served. We try to keep it cheerful, and try to cheer people up, particularly the children and make sure we give them a little treat if we have them.

We have some amazing volunteers helping us who each dedicate up to 20 hours a week of their time to help St Luke’s. How did you recruit them?

The community has been amazing, we have had so many offers of volunteering in the Food Hub, more then we have been able to take on. We are so grateful to our volunteers. One regular has been Marcia, who was interviewed a couple of months ago in our newsletter, and used to be St Luke’s staff and lives in the area, but who was furloughed so had plenty of time on her hands. She then brought with her two old work colleagues from the airline industry, who are now volunteering with us 2-3 times a week. We also had students, other local residents, councillors and also our local MP Emily helping out. It’s been great.

What is the funniest food item we have had donated?

2 tons of Ghee butter, 7 kg of frozen pheasants legs and over 500 energy drinks! 

What was the most amazing food items St Luke’s have received?

Most of the food is amazing that we get donated, I really mean that, but just to mention three. Hundreds of amazing ready meals from The Ivory Restaurant Group, and amazing cakes and bread from the Gail’s Bakery. But what caused massive excitement with our Irish work colleagues and service users was the Irish brand of Tayto crisps.

Tell us about your fundraising for our Food Hub?

On top of all the donations which are worth £1000s every week, we need to raise just under £1000 a week to cover the food cost for the fresh food and general staples that we buy for our 500+ weekly service users. So every little helps as a big supermarket says, so please make a donation! 100% of your donation goes to buy for local residents, none of the donations will cover staff and other administration cost.

We are also starting to ask the local community for food, but we only want (for now), tins, particularly of vegetables, toilet tissue, toiletries, baby wipes and nappies – nothing else at the moment. You can leave your donation with reception, it does not have to be a big donation – like I said every little helps.

You have been working hard over the past few months and deserve a holiday. Where would you (if they sky was your limit) go and why?

Wow, I can’t wait to have a holiday! I have only had one day off since lockdown started. I would love to go to the Caribbean again. Twenty years ago I went to a wedding in Jamaica, and I had the best of times. I would love to go back with a group of my girlfriends and just have a great time! 


Thank you to Carol-Ann for talking to us – we hope you get that holiday soon! You can donate to our Food Hub here: