Save Mary Smith’s Pantry

‘They won’t admit that people who need food banks exist’

by Andy Tullis, South West London Socialist Party

“Westminster Council just wants to sweep poverty under the carpet, they don’t want to admit that people who need food banks even exist.” This was how one local woman expressed her anger at what’s happening to the food bank on Ebury Bridge Estate in Pimlico in central London.

30 local residents and users of the food bank protested attempts to scupper the project by the Tory council. Poverty, low wages and homelessness do exist in Westminster, the very heart of London and the fifth richest economy in the world.

Demo to save Mary Smith pantry
Socialist Party members join the protest to save the foodbank
Photo: Berkay Kartav

The foodbank was originally set up by longstanding Pimlico activists like Mike Smith. But the council closed their former premises on spurious safety grounds.

A recent agreement with the council allowed the food bank some places to store its produce, and promised a portacabin so they could also administer free benefit and housing advice. However, the council reneged on these promises.

The project is now operating on the street in all weathers, without premises or basic facilities. The demonstration also protested against the building contractors involved in ‘regenerating’ the area, who have been colluding with Westminster Council in making things difficult for the Mary Smith’s Pantry and their volunteers.

Just a few yards from where the pantry once operated, the Tory council has funded trendy new pop-up boutiques selling high-end jewellery and art. Some have already failed and their plush premises now lay empty. “Why couldn’t one of these be given over to our community food bank?” asked Mike.

The workers’ movement must get behind the campaign. The Tory council can’t be allowed to get away with closing down such an important community resource.