Thousands of Lagos residents – women, children and aged – struggle to feed on a daily basis as the economic recession does not allow most the ability to afford this basic necessity. There’s only so much the state government can do in tackling hunger so it has become necessary for private, non-profit organisations to rise to the occasion.
Food Banks collect and gather donated food items that would otherwise be wasted and deliver through various channels to the needy in the society. The Lagos Food Bank Initiative is the first of its type in these parts and it is working tirelessly with its volunteers and donors to see to it that if not all but a large number of Lagosians especially those in slums are fed and clothed.
In this interview with YNaija’s Impact365, LFBI tells us of its mission, challenges, reach and plans for the future.
Please tell us more about the Lagos Food Bank Initiative
Lagos Food Bank Initiative is a non-governmental, non-profit, private-driven charity organisation established in March 2015 with the main aim of providing foodstuffs and other relief items to the less privileged, the elderly and other vulnerable people in Lagos, Nigeria. We operate as a full serviced food bank/storehouse where sourced foodstuffs and other sundry items are kept for onward distribution to the needy.
Our primary goal is to alleviate the sufferings of the destitute, the vulnerable, the poor and needy in our society. The Lagos food Bank currently has 5 board members inclusive of the founder.
What inspired the decision to set up a food bank that targets Lagos residents when the North accounts for the highest number of poor Nigerians?
When you have a big dream to feed thousands of people but your finances do not match up to your dream, you can only but start from where you are and from what you have. This implies starting small. Sometimes it is very wise to have an impact in one state where you are likely to have financial support from family and friends to touch several lives than embarking on feeding the entire nation and become overwhelmed by the huge task.
Moreso, rural urban migration and worsening economic situation of the country has made Lagos State more vulnerable. Thousands of people are suffering in the midst of affluence in Lagos coupled with the fact that the living standard is more expensive in Lagos compared to other states in Nigeria.
So do you have intentions to take your work out of Lagos?
We do have plans to move into other states including those in the North but not until we have successfully built our brand and structure here in Lagos. We plan to move into other states with the same brand but with different names patterned towards the peculiarity of the state we are spreading to.
What is your volunteer strength like and how has celebrity engagement helped achieve your goals?
Currently we have over 400 Volunteers from all walks of life in Lagos with few from Ogun state and Ibadan. We receive more than 5 volunteer requests daily.
Celebrity engagement helps to spread the word about the humanitarian activities of any NGO. They help engage their fans directly or indirectly by their involvement. We are still working on the involvement of more celebrities. The challenge we have here in Nigeria is that most celebrities already have their own foundation and do not want to associate with charity organisation they do not have direct relationship with. But we believe that at LFBI we are moving beyond that.
How much impact has LFBI made so far?
Since the inception of the Lagos Food Bank Initiative, we have reached more than 17,500 beneficiaries especially women and children. We have carried out several humanitarian projects by providing food and relief items to slum-designated communities like Agege, Makoko, Ipaja, Mushin, Ebute Metta ,Ijora Otto, Idi-araba, Ajegunle etc. We have a target towards the 20 Local Governments in Lagos, Nigeria. Our interventions are geared towards the widows, poor families, physically disabled/disadvantaged.
Aside the above, vulnerable people walk into the food bank daily to collect food and relief items.
What are the biggest challenges the NGO faces?
In Nigeria most NGOs face the following challenges : Lack of Trust, lack of funding and lack of volunteers.
Due to the bad antecedent of NGOs in Nigeria wherein it is used as an avenue to make fast money, a lot of goodhearted people have lost trust and confidence in any start-up NGO and this makes it very difficult for the good ones to thrive. The lack of goodwill affects funding and the support of the civil society at large toward NGOs.
At LFBI we chose to be transparent about our finances and donors and this has helped us a great deal. We are able to earn the trust of the people and in turn, earned funding and brought more volunteers.
One of your Instagram posts explicitly states that this is not a Lagos state government initiative, have you sought or received any help from Lagos state?
Yes we have made attempts. We have met with some of the key officials of the Lagos State Government. Possible Partnership with Lagos state Government is in view. We are hopeful.
What are your other plans for the year 2017 and beyond?
We plan to create at least two more food bank locations/branches within Lagos for this year 2017. We plan to influence more youth towards community service.
We also plan to serve as a link between the rich and the poor to empower at least 500 families with food items, money and resources to start businesses of their choice.
Our long term plan/goal is to be a mother Food Bank to several other food banks that will later spring up to help them through the first starting phase with food items etc.