Foodbanks, the BNP, hunger and food poverty

The Vine food bank in Croydon Pic: Fergus Burnett

The Salvation Army’s Vine foodbank in Croydon                                                            Pic: Fergus Burnett –

As an all-party parliamentary inquiry into hunger and food poverty is launched this week. the number of foodbanks in Croydon and Tower Hamlets is rising and the British National Party has launched a door-to-door service, delivering canned foods to needy people in their homes.

However, BNP leader Nick Griffin announced on his Twitter on March 31: “for the avoidance of doubt, our BNP foodbanks are for indigenous Brits only. ‘Minorities’ all have their own (taxpayer-funded) charities”.

The BNP’s tactics have been compared to Hitler’s soup kitchens and the racially segregated food stalls of extreme right wing group Golden Dawn in Greece.

Mosque-run charities like Sufra, which means, “come to the table” in Arabic, and the Muslim Association of Croydon, on the other hand, are working alongside other charities such as the Trussell Trust, a Christian charity, to offer support to people of all religions and ethnicities. They provide both Halal and non-Halal foods and the demand is growing.

Al-Mizan, the parent charity of Sufra, reported that the organisation has provided food to more than 3,000 people in its first six months with some users walking for miles across London to get to them.

A project co-ordinator from the Islamic Society of Britain said of their eat ‘n’ meet events that: “More than 90 per cent of the people coming along are white, non-Muslim”.

Since February 2013, the Muslim Association of Croydon have organised weekly “feed the homeless” soup kitchens. The service, which is available to all in need, is also catering for users who are employed and others who are looking for work.

The Trussell Trust have reported a sharp rise in demand for food schemes in recent months, and the number of their foodbanks in London have gone from 5 to 40 since 2009.

The latest addition to Croydon’s foodbanks is The Vine which was opened in New Addington last week by the Salvation Army to meet the growing need on the New Addington Estate.

The charitable organisation worked with Churches Together, an alliance of local churches, to set up The Vine for those on the estate whose outgoings simply do not match up to their income.

A spokesperson for New Addington Salvation Army said: “Whilst The Salvation Army has provided emergency food support to people in New Addington and Fieldway for well over 50 years, the current economic climate has resulted in an increase in the level of demand for such services.”

Croydon Council found a former scout hut behind Salcot Crescent for the Salvation Army to use, which local businesses and residents helped to renovate.

Hannah Gordon, a local resident from Croydon, said: “I’m concerned that in the 21st Century there are an increasing number of people who cannot afford to eat. My concern is not the provision of a foodbank but the need for it in the first place.”

“In an era of increasing cost of living, coupled with cuts in benefits, and council services I am thankful that Christian communities are working together to provide for their wider community. I am excited that communities are working together, but saddened that it is under these circumstances. I don’t think a solution lies with local politicians, but higher up the political chain.”

The foodbank, staffed by volunteers and supplied by donations, will be open for two mornings a week and provide services for people in severe financial need.

Service users will be referred to the foodbank if local agencies determine that emergency support is appropriate. Food parcels will be issued via a voucher system, with vouchers issued by local agencies such as social services and health centres.

The all-party parliamentary inquiry into hunger and food poverty will be co-chaired by former Labour welfare minister Frank Field, and the Bishop of Truro Tim Thorton. It aims to understand the under-lying issues behind food poverty.

By Alice Clare Harrold & Zak Thomas

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