A director of foodbanks across Lewisham has spoken out about the borough’s rising hunger problem on the eve of world hunger day.
Figures show that 5,000 emergency three-day food supplies were given to people in Lewisham over the last 12 months, an increase of 20 per cent from the previous year.
Carol Bostridge, who organises Lewisham Trussel Trust foodbanks, told EastLondonlines: “We have certainly seen more people this year. We are turning over 40 tonnes of food annually; we need all the generosity people can manage.
“I used to try and guess if someone was donating or picking up food and I’ve stop doing that because I just get it wrong. There are so many people now; clients and donors look exactly the same.”
80 unpaid Trussel Trust volunteers work six days a week in the borough’s foodbanks to bring food to Lewisham people.
Bostridge spoke of how despite the influx of those now in need, people who used the foodbanks previously have returned to help. She said: “We had one lady who two years ago was in trouble. She is now out of debt and donating. She even wrote us a card and wanted to give us all hugs. We actually listened to her and showed respect, it gave her hope. So that is brilliant.”
Even with the higher demand, Trussel Trust volunteers still offer support and care. She said: “We put people at ease as most feel ashamed they are at a foodbank, how did it get to this. We’ll give you a cuppa, you may just need to talk.”
She told ELL of the stigma they face, saying: “I want to get rid of the idea that those who use foodbanks are spending their money on drugs, mobile phones and cat food. That is not true, 90-95 per cent are normal people in need and it could be any of us.”
The borough of Lewisham now has four foodbanks Forest Hill, New Cross, Lewisham Centre and Catford distributing some 2500 food parcels just last year.
“The other thing I love is watching this higgledy piggledy group of volunteers from many different backgrounds bob along and enjoy working together.
“In some cases one or two retired people have found a new purpose and the energy that brings, is wonderful,” she added.
Another card sent to Bostridge read: “Thanks to everyone who helped my homeless friend and her children, you have provided food but more importantly someone for her to speak to without prejudice. We are very grateful.”
In the UK, The Trussel Trust donated more than one million packages over its 400 foodbanks last year.
In fact, one in five people live below the poverty line in the UK, according to The Trussel Trust.
With world hunger day tomorrow, Niki Psarias, Campaigns and Communications Manager at The Hunger Project UK told ELL: “Hunger is a global thing, and we’re certainly not immune to it in the UK.
“Chronic hunger is the day in day out lack of nutrients that our body needs.
“People may manage to have a carbohydrate-rich meal, what about other nutrients? Not just this, but social inequality, lack of access to education or facilities, no opportunities for women or families to prosper.”
There are other initiatives over the capital to try and counter the cities hunger too.
City Harvest rescues food waste and re-distributes it. CEO Laura Winningham told ELL: “In London, a city with great wealth, it’s hard to believe there is a great deal of hunger.
“We rescue eight tonnes of food and re-distribute it each week. It would wind up in landfill otherwise.
“It makes sense to rescue food, 37 per cent of all children in the capital are living below the poverty line.”
Bostridge said people could start small with giving, to do what they could. “I would love to encourage people to just give what they are able to because it might be you in the future. Buy one extra item and put it in the supermarket box, 30p tin of tomatoes it all helps.
“One of my friends buys something every week so I end up with a tin of tuna rattling around in the bottom of my bag usually!”
Find out more about Lewisham’s Trussel Trust here.