London’s busiest food bank is bracing itself for the most demanding month of the year as more people are expected to visit in December than ever before.
Over the last two years, the number of families fed by the Hammersmith and Fulham food bank has doubled to 12,000 people in 2017-2018 financial year and data from the Trussell Trust showed that demand in December 2017 was 49% higher compared to the monthly average.
This is only expected to rise with projections that this December will be the busiest month recorded for food banks.
CEO and founder of the Hammersmith and Fulham Food bank, Daphine Aitken, said: “Every family at Christmas has increased costs, but for families who don’t have enough to save, it can be nearly impossible. You have increased heat and utility costs and children breaking up form school so you don’t have free school meals. That and the expectation for presents can be very challenging for low income families.”
This coupled with inadequate benefit levels, the fastest growing reason for foodbank referrals, mean that basic costs of living are not covered leaving the foodbank as the only option.
Trussell Trust chief executive, Emma Revie, said: “Christmas is supposed to be a time for joy but what we’re seeing is the festive period becoming increasingly stressful for more and more people across the country.
“Our benefits system is supposed protect us all from being swept into poverty – but what we’re seeing is people struggling to heat homes and put food on the table because they simply cannot afford the basics anymore and that just isn’t right.”
Research from the Trussell Trust shows that half of food bank referrals made because of ‘moving onto a different benefit’ in the last year were related to Universal Credit.
This combined with the five-week waiting period for new claimants means that some are left with no other source of income, so the food bank is their only option.
Ms Aitken said: “Benefit issues have always been a significant factor in referrals to food banks however the switch to Universal Credit has been like a dynamite. There has been an explosion in use of foodbanks because people are just not getting enough.”
According to the council Universal Credit has left some residents with £200 less per month than before.
This can have a detrimental effect on individuals mental health.
Ms Aitken said: “The stress of poverty, the stress of not knowing where your next meal is coming from, how you’re going to pay your utility bills how you’re going to pay your rent or your arrears can make you ill as well. These people are in genuine crisis”
The foodbank is introducing a pilot scheme to provide psychotherapy sessions and provides other support such as Citizens Advice but demand is still rising.
Councillor Sue Fennimore, Deputy Leader at H&F Council said: “There is no coincidence that the foodbank is now the busiest in London since the roll out of Universal Credit in the borough.
“We’re working with the H&F Foodbank to make sure everyone can have a proper meal but they are in desperate need of supplies and support.”
Hammersmith and Fulham food bank, along with the borough council support, are urging residents to donate with the following items being the most urgently needed:
- Tinned fruit and vegetables
- Long life juice
- UHT milk
- Tinned meat
- Tinned fish
- Coffee (small jars)
- Spreads (such as peanut butter or jam)
- Toilet roll
For your nearest food bank go to https://www.trusselltrust.org/get-help/find-a-foodbank/
For more information about Hammersmith and Fulham foodbank go to https://hammersmithfulham.foodbank.org.uk/
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