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Lifeline work of Pimlico ‘food bank angel’ Michael Smith

Service finds new home on the Ebury Bridge estate after hundreds back petition

03 February, 2021 — By Isabelle Stanley

Mike has helped thousands of people over the years 

A FOOD bank has moved into a new home on the Ebury Bridge estate after a battle with the council.

Ebury Food Surplus has been a lifeline to people on the estate in Pimlico during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Its founder, “Pimlico born and bred” Michael Smith, 58, has provided more than 170 food parcels a week to those most in need, often working alone through the night to make sure people don’t go hungry.

Mr Smith has been working for charities in Pimlico since he was 16, including the homeless charities One Big Family and The Homeless Britain Group.

Mr Smith said he had helped “thousands of people”, adding: “I think it all stems from my mum, she was an inspiration to me and was always helping in the community.”

Mr Smith has decided to rename his food bank “Mary Smith’s Pantry” as a tribute to his mother who died recently.

Ghariba Skinner, a police community support officer who has worked with Mr Smith for two years, said: “He’s an angel without wings, that’s how I see Mike.”

When Westminster Council began to demolish the Ebury Bridge estate in January 2020, residents feared for the future of the food bank housed in the estate’s lodge.

Council officials told Mr Smith he would have to move the food bank away unless he officially registered it as a charity and met health and safety requirements.

But he refused because this would waste valuable time and would require a voucher and an administrative system.

Mr Smith collects excess food from supermarkets to give to anyone in need without a lengthy application process. And the food bank is not limited to food.

Recently, he has been sourcing uniforms and clothes for children in need and even giving dog treats to local rescues, including the Battersea Cats and Dogs Home and the Fox Project.

“It’s not just about feeding the humans,” said Mr Smith. A petition to the council to keep the food bank on the estate was signed by almost 400 people.

“If it wasn’t for the petition we probably wouldn’t have gotten anywhere,” said Mr Smith. Churchill ward’s Labour councillors also lobbied for the food bank to be retained.

Mr Smith said he thought “they got a shock to see how many people had been going in there complaining”.

The combined pressure saw the Conservative-run council offer Ebury Food Surplus a temporary space in the new development where Wainwright House once stood.

In six months, when the food bank has to leave its temporary home, Mr Smith is considering moving operations to the nearby Churchill Gardens estate.

Despite the good news, Mr Smith added: “It’s sad moving out of the lodge because I think it’s an iconic building, but in life, things move on and I think we have to change with the time.”

He is also considering registering the service as a trust so that it can continue the Smith family’s charitable legacy when he is gone.

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