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Ipswich food bank 'fills gap' by providing African produce

image copyrightBSSG
image captionVolunteer Ervonette helps prepare a parcel of traditional food with the African Food Pantry

A food bank is providing traditional food products to families who would otherwise be "losing part of their culture".

The African Food Pantry has been set up in Ipswich to support people who are struggling financially.

Items provided include green bananas, lentils, yam flour, okra and plantain - as well as staples like eggs and bread.

"Most families want to have their African meal, but they can't afford it," said founder Funmil Akinriboya.

The team of volunteers also support European families and people who are shielding, and receives referrals from across the county.

"It is very important to have your traditional food because it's part of your culture, your tradition," said Ms Akinriboya.

"If you're not able to afford it, that means you're losing part of who you are."

image copyrightBSSG
image captionThe parcel includes traditional African food, including green bananas and plantain

The Pantry was started by the BME Suffolk Support Group (BSSG) in February with lottery funding after members raised concerns about the cost of African food products.

It said demand rose from two to three parcels a week to 15 during the first coronavirus lockdown, and it supported 100 families between March and June.

Additional funding from the Suffolk Community Foundation (SCF) has been extended until March next year.

Andrea Pittock, head of grant programmes at SCF, said the pandemic had brought "much suffering and hardship", but BSSG had taken a "very practical approach to helping people".

"One of the most inspiring things to have occurred during these dark times is the passion with which individuals have stepped up within their communities to ignite support for those least in a position to help themselves," she said.

Ms Akinriboya said BSSG was started because they needed to bridge a "gap between the black community and the mainstream service out there".

"To be able to have the traditional meal was actually a quite big bonus for them," she said.

image copyrightBSSG
image captionBSSG founder Funmil Akinriboya said most African families could not afford traditional foodstuffs

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Related Topics

  • Ipswich
  • Food banks
  • Representation

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