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Freedom of Borough awarded to local foodbank pioneer

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Image captionImage 1: Pictured is Daphine Aikens making her acceptance speech after receiving the Freedom of the Borough

The driving force behind the Hammersmith & Fulham Foodbank – which continues to support families through the cost-of-living crisis – has received the Freedom of the Borough.

Daphine Aikens joins a select group of people (including a local military unit) who have been singled out for the honour to mark an exceptional contribution to the wellbeing of borough residents.

H&F Council’s Leader, Cllr Stephen Cowan, made the presentation at a ceremony on Wednesday (25 May), in White City. The new H&F Mayor was also elected and Cabinet members confirmed.

Daphine, 54, said she felt 'humbled' to receive the Freedom of the Borough, and accepted the honour on behalf of all the volunteers, funders, churches and helpers who have worked tirelessly behind the scenes to keep the foodbanks running.

“This means so much to me; I’m aware that it’s a rare honour. But at the same time, I’m aware that I’ve only done 12 years of service in the borough and there are people who have done so much more... so I don’t feel fully deserving of it,” she said.

Richly deserved

Cllr Cowan is in no doubt that Daphine richly deserves receiving the most prestigious honour that the local authority can bestow. Over its 12 years, the H&F Foodbank has helped more than 120,000 people and given out 1.4million meals.

Cllr Cowan said:

At a time of such urgent need – through the pandemic and the cost-of-living emergency, specifically – she devoted her time to ensuring that local people in need were supported. In the past year alone, nearly 45,000 residents sought help from the Foodbank during the height of the pandemic.

We’re grateful for all that Daphine has achieved in H&F, and it’s important that we show our gratitude by honouring her with the Freedom of the Borough.

It is abhorrent that in the capital city of the fifth largest economy on Earth, so many people need to rely on charity to feed themselves and their families. But we’re so grateful to Daphine for everything she has done.”

Read Cllr Cowan’s recent tribute to Daphine and other local heroes – and the coming challenges that face H&F.

Foodbank origins

The Hammersmith & Fulham Foodbank was set up 2010 by Daphine to address the issue of poverty in west London. The supply of food and household essentials were dramatically scaled up during the Covid crisis, with volunteers working in partnership with H&F Council staff and its own volunteers.

“The Freedom of the Borough is really the icing on the cake,” said Daphine, who was made an MBE for her voluntary work.

“I’ve achieved nothing by myself – everything I’ve done has been part of a team. I’ve had the privilege of leading that team, whether it’s been paid staff, volunteers, funders, hosts including churches, partners... it’s been a joint community effort.”

Cost of living

She said that the current cost-of-living crisis, which has seen energy costs and food prices spiral, has made the Foodbank’s work even more urgent.

“I’m really sad to say that this is only the beginning,” she said. “The removal of the uplift in Universal Credit, the price rises, the increase in utility bills – this is a long-term problem that is going to require long-term solutions.”

Contributions

In 2013, Daphine appeared on the Evening Standard’s Power 1,000 list of influential people in the capital. And in 2018 she won H&F’s Community Hero award for outstanding contribution to the life of the borough in our Civic Honours.

When she opened H&F’s first foodbank in Fulham in 2010, there were only a handful of similar projects in the country. Today the UK has more than 2,200.

The local foodbanks still need help in terms of food donations, cash and volunteers, said Daphine, whose helpers in four centres in SW6, W12 and W14 operate what are effectively production lines of aid, channelling day-to-day essentials to those most in need.

Details of the locations and opening hours of the foodbanks, and the way to donate food, essentials and cash, can be found on the Hammersmith & Fulham Foodbank website.   

In addition to Daphine, the Freedom of the Borough was also conferred on William Hunter, extraordinary foster carer Hanora 'Nora' McCool and Frances Stainton for their service to residents over many years.

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Image caption: Image 2: Daphine Aikens (pictured left) with Cllr Stephen Cowan (right) at the temporary Olympia London exhibition centre foodbank set up to expand food support for local residents in need during the Covid-19 pandemic

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