Foodbanks across south London are continuing to support many residents struggling to put food on the table this Christmas as myriad economic and health crises continue to impact families in the capital.
Christmas is often a busy time for foodbanks across the UK, many of which have reported a surge in the number of people turning to them on a regular basis since the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic.
It is also a time of great generosity, and those managing foodbanks south of the river were eager to convey their thanks to the volunteers and community donations that help them maintain what have become a necessary resource for many families in the region.
For example, one of the volunteers at the Vineyard Community group behind Richmond Foodbank told Newsquest South London:
“We have a really good team at the moment and the generosity of people in Richmond is absolutely astonishing. I would love people to think of us again after Christmas say in April or May when I’m sure we’ll be in need of specific things. For now, between today (Monday, December 20) and Wednesday, we’re giving out Christmas parcels from our base in Hampton to local schools and helping families get through that Christmas period.”
If you need support this Christmas, the food banks in our network are there for you. Find out more about how to access emergency food and other support on our website now > https://t.co/BgXN73Hy1H pic.twitter.com/47ULoSnnJ2
— The Trussell Trust (@TrussellTrust) December 18, 2021
Yet the need for such an effort belies deeper structural problems, and foodbanks are only able to treat the symptoms rather than the cause, as the volunteer explained:
“Our concern is that there seem to be a number of people coming not because they are having a moment of crisis necessarily but because they are just unable to make ends meet even though they are receiving all the benefits or working all the hours they can work. There just isn’t enough money to last,” she said.
“I think for some people in Richmond because of the cost of housing and of fuel i.e. heating it just means that the money they are earning just is not going far enough.”
An account from nearby Sutton painted a similar picture. Resources were adequate but they remained busy.
A spokesperson for Sutton Community Works, who run the foodbank in the borough, told Newsquest South London:
“The demand always increases as we come close to Christmas… I think there has been an increase due to the Universal Credit “uplift” coming off too so we are seeing more people coming to the foodbank. We’re seeing on average around 70 families come to us per week between the foodbank and (related) food shop,” he said.
“Since the pandemic started we haven’t stopped running the foodbank. At the moment we are doing fine for both volunteers and donations. We partner with the Trussel Trust and supermarkets locally and we’re getting quite a bit of food at the moment.”
Both volunteers pointed out that foodbanks were an emergency resource first and foremost — for those who are most desperate for food.
The volunteers at the Sutton and Richmond Foodbanks both said at the least a reintroduction of the £20 uplift to Universal Credit in addition to improved, more immediate support from the state, including in the realm of employment, was needed to combat food poverty in the longer term.
“In terms of what the government can do, it’s about trying to understand the impact of what for example having to wait six weeks for your first Universal Credit payment means. I think the way things are rolled out is often by people who don’t understand what it’s like not to have any money. I’d call for more compassion from the government really,” the Sutton spokesperson said.