They were designed and handmade by local 3D artist Sean Rodrigo, crafted in plywood, meticulously decorated and then embellished with 3D-printed details and solar-powered lighting.
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The crowdfunded miniatures come complete with curtains, flowers, even street signs and postboxes. The pub cat appears on The Nags’ Head food bank and the windows of Wood Street Indoor Market food bank display tiny models showcasing the range of goods on offer, including cakes, shoes, toys and a taco from Homies on Donkeys.
The insides are lined with wallpaper designed by local hero William Morris.
The model buildings function as a food bank drop off point, with shelves inside designed for tins and other non-perishable food donations. QR codes inside offer more information and passers-by are encouraged to take food if they need it.
The buildings also have a battery-powered Flic 2 button inside. Users press it when the food bank is full to trigger a Raspberry Pi 3B mini computer in the host’s house to tweet and email an alert. Volunteers then take the donations to a food bank run by local charity PL84U Al-Suffa.
PL84U Al-Suffa founder and chair Saira Mir says there’s been a huge rise in the number of people using its food bank since the Covid-19 pandemic broke out, with more referrals every day.
“We do the food bank on a much bigger scale now, since Covid, plus hot meals as takeaways,” says Mir. “For example, in December 2020 we made up food parcels for more than 5,000 people.”
“The mini food banks mean people can easily donate,” she adds. “You might have thought of donating to a food bank but don’t know where. It’s a nice outing for the kids to go for a walk and do something positive. I don’t think the novelty will wear off.
“Even though they’re small, they’ve generated a huge amount of donations. They’re so beautiful. Each time I see them I’m really excited!”
More than just a food bank, PL84U Al-Suffa supports locals in need with baby items, clothes and furniture. The connection with local artists goes further too: it has given children activity packs from The Barbican, Blackhorse Workshops and KukooLaLa cafe plus learning packs from London City University.
Artist Sean Rodrigo came up with the mini food bank idea after he used his 3D printer to repair a local Little Free Library, refurbishing it to look like a Victorian house.
“I discussed the idea with Saira and then set up a crowdfunder to see if there was support for them,” says Rodrigo. “The campaign gained momentum immediately and the whole thing has been funded by individual sponsors.
“The mini food banks are playful and make it easy and affordable to do something good for others. You can grab a tin of food when you leave the house for the school run or pick up something extra at the shops and donate it on your way home.
“They publicise the food bank and inspire donations. Last weekend people just started putting Easter eggs in them! We encourage non-perishable food but we’ve also received everything from toiletries to bags of fresh veg.”
People have treated the mini food banks very well so far and there has been no damage.
Rodrigo is now working on designs based on a greengrocer’s and a local Bengali curry house. New additions will be added to the online mini food bank map.
Other iconic local buildings may appear soon. He is even dreaming up how to make a mini kebab shop, complete with spinning rotisserie.
For more information, visit instagram.com/minifoodbankse17
Caramel Quin is donating her fee for this article to PL84U Al-Suffa
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