A NURSERY school owner has put her concern for deprived children and their families into action, both in Redbridge and in Zambia where she was born.

Fatima Juneja, whose motto is ‘we rise by lifting others’, has set up a food bank in Ilford and at one of her Montessori nursery schools so that families in need of support can come and collect food when they need it.

The 53-year-old businesswoman set the initiative up four years ago, but even during lockdown she and 24-year-old son Zafar carried on the effort by delivering food parcels personally to family homes in the area.

Fatima, who lives in Ilford with husband Tariq, also has three daughters, aged 12, 20 and 22.

She said: “I wanted to volunteer at a food bank, but that didn’t work out, so I decided to set one up myself.

“When I saw youngsters coming to the nurseries in South Woodford and Ilford who obviously had not eaten well at home, I felt I had to do something to help.

“If I found it difficult to find a food bank, how would these parents find support?”

Fatima was given access to space at Peabody Children’s Centre in Jaffe Road, Ilford, and used her own funds to buy fresh, nutritious food to hand out to families.

“Parents of the pre-school children come to the nurseries and say they cannot afford food and their children come in hungry,” said Fatima.

Also, when on a visit to Zambia, where her parliamentarian father always aimed to help the needy, Fatima saw hunger and other deprivation, and decided to offer support to charities there too. Fundraising efforts in Redbridge have helped to provide bore holes for water, gardening tools to grow vegetables and supplies of food.

She is now hoping to expand her work, with the help of food bank manager Louisa Meksem, as she has seen a growing need, so is planning to link up with other initiatives in the area such as the Felix Project that saves surplus food from suppliers and redistributes it to charities. It has the dual aim to help reduce food surplus, as does charity FairShare, to which Fatima is now affiliated.

To support Fatima’s efforts, visit @FatimaFoodBank on Facebook or website fatimafoodbank.org