Families across the UK face a “summer of hardship” as mounting money problems caused by the pandemic leave those on low incomes at grave risk of going hungry, food charities have warned.
Over the last three months, hundreds of inspiring local groups have sprung into action, using fresh produce from The Independent’s Help the Hungry campaign partner The Felix Project to support the poor and vulnerable.
Although the lifting of lockdown restrictions has eased many problems faced by people shielding for health reasons, charity bosses says widespread job losses mean the emergency food drive will have to continue for the rest of the summer — and for the months beyond.
Vicki Williams at BreadnButter
Social enterprise BreadnButter, which teaches cooking skills to community groups, adapted to the pandemic by supplying daily up to 600 food parcels and meals to people struggling to get enough to eat. “Demand isn’t going away,” said co-founder Vicki Williams.
“We think it will be there for a long time, unfortunately, at least for the rest of this year. Some of the shielding people don’t need help anymore, but we’re still getting new people in need because of money problems. How much we continue to do will depend on how bad the job losses will be.”
Williams said some food supplied by local restaurants had dried up because many are preparing to reopen, but The Felix Project continues to supply them with 80 crates of food a week. “We absolutely depend on them — what they’re doing is vital.”
Tam Carrigan at Haringey Play Association
Haringey Play Association usually runs after-school projects for children in northeast London, but responded to the crisis by offering cooked meals and bags of groceries to parents struggling to afford food. “We have had queues of people right around the corner,” said senior playworker Tam Carrigan.
“We’ll certainly have to carry on with the work because families are still struggling with bills and some are struggling with debts. There’s a lot of hardship out there that will continue over the summer.”
The charity is now providing food donations to between 50 and 60 families, thanks to a regular supply of a dozen crates of fresh produce from The Felix Project. “Thank God for The Felix Project,” said Carrigan.
Fuzz Dix at St Luke’s Millwall Church
Fuzz Dix helped set up a food bank at St Luke’s Millwall, an Anglican church on London’s Isle of Dogs, soon after lockdown began, making weekly food package deliveries to around 100 homes in the area. “Even in the last few weeks we’ve seen an increase in people who say they’ve lost their job and are having to apply for universal credit — it’s heartbreaking,” said the pastor
Dix said up to 10 crates of food from The Felix Project each week has helped make up for the dip in supplies from reopening restaurants in Canary Wharf. “We’re hoping some working in the hospitality industry may be able to get back to work, but it’s hard to know. We’re not going anywhere, because it doesn’t look like the need for support is going anywhere.”
Hilary Nightingale at Cardinal Hume Centre
The Cardinal Hume Centre, a charity working with vulnerable young people and families opened a food hub at the beginning of lockdown to help struggling parents. “Some families we’ve been helping are in extreme poverty,” said Hilary Nightingale, their head of services. “In some cases, because of their immigration status, they have no recourse to public funds, so they rely on us and other food banks.”
The centre gets eight crates of food from The Felix Project a week, allowing them to help 40 families. “The problems affording food are going to be really serious for a while, unfortunately,” said Ms Nightingale.
Sarah Bentley at Made in Hackney
Volunteer cyclists from Made in Hackney — a vegan community kitchen — responded to the pandemic by hopping on their bikes and delivering cooked meals to 500 homes in the east London borough, five days a week. Co-founder Sarah Bentley said they had been able to reduce deliveries to two days a week because some people have accessed food from elsewhere.
“For many community food response groups it’s an in-between time right now. The emergency phase feels over, but the need for food and support is just as critical,” she said. “We know we’re heading towards a huge recession and we need to respond in a way that’s sustainable.”
The Independent is encouraging readers to help groups that are trying to feed the hungry during the crisis — find out how you can help here. Follow this link to donate to our campaign in London, in partnership with the Evening Standard.