London sports charity turns HQ into food bank

Greenhouse Sports has transformed its out-of-use hall and now supplies 100 food parcels a day and three tonnes of food a week to the local community in central London

The Greenhouse Centre, now a food bank
The Greenhouse Centre, now a food bank

A community sports charity in central London has turned its headquarters into a food bank, allowing it to provide food and support to people in one of the most deprived areas of the capital. 

Greenhouse Sports normally offers sports coaching and mentoring to more than 7,000 young people, but since the coronavirus lockdown came into force its free-to-use sports hall has been left empty. 

Since April, the charity has transformed the hall into a food bank, supplying 100 food parcels a day and three tonnes of food a week in a ward that is among the most deprived in the country.

Béatrice Butsana-Sita, the charity’s chief executive, said: “Helping young people and our community is at the heart of what we do, so it was a no-brainer to turn our sports centre into a food bank during the coronavirus crisis.”

The charity, which had an income of £8.9m in the year to 31 March 2019, worked with the nearby North Paddington Food Bank to work out what was needed and how to make the changes to the hall, she said.

North Paddington Food Bank is overseeing the food bank operation. 

“It is a stark reality that many Londoners require food banks even at the best of times,” Butsana-Sita said. “The impact of the coronavirus has meant that, with many people out of work, their ability to provide for their families has been reduced.

“As a charity that already supports some of London’s most disadvantaged, we felt it was important for us to do what we can in this time of acute need.”

She said she was “incredibly grateful” to the charity’s staff and volunteers for backing the project and helping to get it up and running so quickly.

The charity is still working on delivering support with sport and physical activity through its #HomeCoach initiative: coaches film themselves conducting fitness sessions, giving coaching tips and advice, and setting challenges so the young people the charity works with can stay connected and physically and mentally healthy during the crisis.

Jason Sugrue, director of coaching at Greenhouse Sports, said the scheme was “crucial” to helping the charity’s beneficiaries in isolation.

“We quickly realised that we weren’t going to be able to see or speak directly to our young people for a long time, so we immediately began working on innovative ways to continue supporting them,” he said. 

“Our coaches have done a great job in continuing to play a mentoring role in these young people’s lives during these unnerving times for everybody.”

The charity, which makes most of its income from voluntary sources and its charitable activities, took part in The 2.6 Challenge last month, attracting support from England Netball star Ama Agbeze, Lord Sebastian Coe and former British tennis number one Greg Rusedski.

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