Sarah Greenwood, the Trussell Trust London Foodbank Network Manager, discusses foodbanks in London and how the new mayor can help reduce the numbers of people in crisis.
“I’ve worked all my adult life but after I was made redundant, my income went from £24k a year to £4k a year… Every mother wants the best for their children and teaches them that in our society if you work hard, you can achieve anything. I’ve always taught my son that. But I’ve worked hard and look where we are now. How can I look him in the eye and tell him everything’s going to be okay when there’s no way I can promise that?”
In the last twelve months Trussell Trust foodbanks gave over 110,00 three day emergency food supplies to people in crisis in London, of which over 42,000 went to children. Lydia, a mum who has worked all her life until being made redundant from her job in a solicitor’s office recently, is just one of hundreds of parents who have had to turn to a London foodbank in the Trussell Trust’s network over the last year because they couldn’t afford to feed their family.
The Trussell Trust London Network regularly sees parents who have gone without food to ensure their children don’t go hungry, who have had to choose between heating or eating, who are suffering strained relationships as a result of the mental, emotional, and physical impact of hunger and poverty.
Evidence from the frontline professionals who refer people to foodbanks tells us that problems with benefits remain the biggest causes of hunger in London, but increasing numbers of people are being referred for emergency food due to low income. At a Trussell Trust London Foodbank individuals, couples and families in crisis are given vital breathing space, a listening ear, and signposting that aims to tackle the underlying causes of hunger.
“Here you can come in and you’re made to feel at ease and relaxed. Everyone’s here for the same reason – we’ve all got money problems. It helps to be able to speak to someone in that mind-set and environment.”
Jennifer, a chef and certified barista, had to leave work to care for her ill husband, and was referred to the foodbank when her benefits were changed to Universal Credit, and her family was left waiting for the first payment with no income. When she visited Hammersmith & Fulham Foodbank she was able to speak to a Citizen’s Advice worker in the session, who offers immediate help with benefits, debt and housing to people at the point of crisis in the foodbank centre.
To help reduce the likelihood of someone needing emergency food in future, foodbanks are increasingly working with local charities and agencies to co-locate service provision like this at the foodbank and help people out of crises more quickly. Many foodbanks are now providing more than food in the form of debt and money support, breakfast clubs, holiday clubs, legal advice, clothing banks, cooking courses, fresh fruit and veg, baby products, energy banks and welfare support.
Volunteer driven foodbanks are doing incredible, innovative work to help tackle poverty in London but we are also clear that more needs to be done upstream to reduce the numbers of people who end up in crisis situations. We are pleased that the #familyfriendlylondon manifesto addresses some of the significant costs of living in London for families and are particularly supportive of efforts to promote the London Living Wage and secure work to help reduce the numbers of people ending up in a crisis situation.
Join in the conversation on Twitter #FamilyFriendlyLondon.