‘Save Mary Smith’s Pantry!’ City ‘wants rid of vital food bank’

Pimlico protesters hear of ‘brick wall of indifference’ from the city

Friday, 6th May — By Tom Foot

food bank2022-04-29 at 2.46.35 PM

A CAMPAIGN has been launched to protect a food bank that supports hundreds of families in the heart of Pimlico.

Mary Smith’s Pantry, Ebury Bridge Estate, provides food and essentials “no questions asked” to anyone in need. On Friday 20 volunteers and people who use the food bank protested outside the estate’s redevelopment office in Ebury Bridge Road.

With bright banners, they chanted “Save Mary Smith’s Pantry”. They say the city council is trying to drive them out by taking away their toilet access and refusing to guarantee where their base will be in the new development. One councillor warned there had been a “brick wall of indifference” from the city.

Founder Michael Smith, who named the food bank after his mother Mary, said: “They told me on the new estate they’d build a new building for us, but then they keep changing the plans and now we’re not included on it. We haven’t had access to toilets for six or seven weeks. Luckily we have a few residents who let us volunteers use theirs.”

Several of the volunteers are elderly and Mr Smith himself has irritable bowel syndrome, meaning he often needs to access a toilet urgently.

He said: “They’re trying to get rid of us, but we won’t stand for their dirty tactics.”

In October 2020 food bank operators were told to leave their base in the lodge of the estate with nowhere to go, but a petition and story in the Extra persuaded the council to offer them an alternative base.

Labour councillor Liza Begum has been supporting the campaign. She said: “I have been lobbying the Ebury Bridge regeneration team for storage and other facilities for the food bank but have continually come up against a brick wall of indifference from council leaders.”

The pantry is open Monday to Friday at Bridge House, no questions asked. Mr Smith asked that people bring their own bags and sign feedback forms.

A Westminster City Council spokesperson said: “Volunteers at Mary Smith’s Pantry have access to a toilet and will continue to have it until March 2023, when they will need to move for the next phase of the development for much needed council homes.

“The council has supported this community group over the past four years. In October 2020 it was informed they would need to leave the Lodge (a disused caretaker’s cabin) on the Ebury Bridge estate to enable the construction to proceed.

“They were informed that we would help them find new permanent premises and we would arrange community development support from an independent local advocate to formalise their operation, for example to apply for charitable status.

“The council has provided Mary Smith’s Pantry with a temporary storage space from which to operate within the Ebury Bridge estate.”

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