Demand for food banks rockets as Christmas looms

Local foodbanks are issuing appeals for contributions ahead of Christmas. Pic: Bromford.

In the second of a two part examination of the poverty crises affecting people this Christmas, Barney Stone looks at how food banks are struggling is in Eastlondonlines boroughs.

Food banks across Eastlondonlines boroughs are becoming increasingly stretched as demand reaches a record high, outstripping supply in the build up to Christmas.

Hackney has been hit the hardest, with a 54 per cent increase in demand this year. Last week, Hackney Foodbank, which is spread across five different locations in the borough, issued an urgent appeal for donations.

Melanie Rochford, director of Hackney Foodbank, told Eastlondonlines: “We’re seeing an unsustainable increase in [demand], it’s really tough keeping up”.  

Croydon FoodbankLewisham Foodbank, and Bow Foodbank, in Tower Hamlets, are facing similar hikes in demand. The first two have reported an increase of 20 per cent, and Bow has seen a 25 per cent rise.

To help those in need enjoy the holiday season, Croydon Foodbank have launched a Christmas Appeal for festive snacks, such as mince pies, puddings, chocolates, and biscuits.  

Grace Allen, from Croydon Foodbank, told Eastlondonlines: “There is always an increase [in demand] over Christmas, but we are fortunate that people are more generous at this time of year – you wouldn’t believe the organisations helping out”. 

Charities and schools are also weighing in, with Tesco and TfL helping to balance out rising demands.

Despite this, more donations and volunteers are needed.

Grace Allen told Eastlondonlines: “At times I feel deflated, [and think] why can’t people see the need [for foodbanks]. It can be straining when you don’t get the support you need. We look after animals better than people.”  

The increase in demand is not isolated to Eastlondonlines boroughs. A recent study conducted by the Trussell Trust, a national charity supporting a network of food banks to provide emergency food, found that between April and September 2019, national demand increased by 23 per cent from the previous year.

According to FullFact, between 2010 and 2017, the number of uses of Trussell Trust food banks increased from 41,000 to 1.2 million.

The Trussell Trust now supports more than 1,200 food bank centres in the UK, and there are roughly 800 independently run foodbanks. There are roughly five times as many food banks as there are Nandos outlets.

According to State of Hunger, the most in-depth study to date into hunger and the drivers of food bank use in the UK, problems with the benefits system, ill health or challenging life experiences, and a lack of local support are the primary factors associated with food poverty.

At 56.7 per cent, Tower Hamlets has the highest rate of child poverty in London, according to research from the End Child Poverty coalition. In Hackney, Lewisham and Croydon, this rate is 48.1, 37 and 30 per cent   respectively.  

Last week, Boris Johnson said he hoped food bank usage would decline, and said: “I applaud everybody who gets involved with running food banks but clearly it is wrong that people should be dependent on them”.  

Emma Revie, chief executive of Trussell Trust, said in a statement: “For too many people it’s becoming harder and harder to keep their heads above water. Our next government must start working towards a future where everyone has enough money for the basics”.  

“Christmas is supposed to be a time of joy and celebration. It’s not right that anyone should have to use a foodbank at any time of year”.  

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