Lambeth is London’s worst hit borough as UK food bank visits soar to more than a MILLION

Hungry families make more than a million visits to foodbanks for the first time in 2014/2015, with Lambeth recording the highest figures in London.

The statistics, published by charity The Trussell Trust, show that 1,084,604 emergency foodboxes, each containing three days’ worth of food, were distributed nationally to people in crisis over a 12-month period.

This is an increase of 19% compared to the previous year, when 913,138 foodboxes were distributed.

In London, 104,799 foodboxes were given to those in need, including 40,043 to children.

The borough of Lambeth had the highest total with 12,351, and Kensington and Chelsea was the only London borough where the total was lower than 1,000.

Each person who receives a foodbox is referred by a care professional, who issues a foodbank voucher which can be exchanged for a foodbox.

A survey conducted by The Trussell Trust found that changes and delays of benefits accounted for the highest proportion of referrals, with 44% citing this reason.

Anthony Small, 54, who lives in Streatham and is currently unemployed, turned to Lambeth’s West Norwood and Brixton foodbank after a change in the benefits he receives.

He told SW Londoner: “I was on Employment and Support Allowance because I’ve got mental health issues. They were paying me approximately £110 a week, which I could manage on.

“But now they’ve put me on Jobseeker’s Allowance which is £70. That £40 a week has just devastated me.”

Mr Small said that he would have been forced to turn to shoplifting if he had not been able to fall back on the foodbank for support.

He also said the government was letting down people suffering from mental and physical health problems.

He said: “I don’t vote because I don’t trust any of them, they’ve all let me down throughout my life.”

Adele Hampton* {not her real name}, a 29-year-old single mother of two children aged eight and nine, came to the UK from Nigeria in 2003 on a now-expired student visa.

She is currently unable to work or claim benefits while she waits to hear the outcome of her application for a working visa, and relies on the foodbank to feed her children.

“It’s very hard for me and the children,” she said.

“If there was no foodbank, I don’t know what would have happened to me. Maybe I would be dead by now.

“If there was no foodbank I don’t think I could survive.”

Sarah Greenwood, the Trussell Trust’s London Foodbank Network Manager, told SWLondoner that insecure work contracts, low wages rising rents and rising fuel costs were among the most common reasons driving people to foodbanks.

She added that mental illness, redundancy and benefit sanctions had also contributed to the increase in foodbank use.

“Everybody has a different story,” she said.

“Often people have suffered some sort of bereavement or crisis in their life.”

Ms Greenwood said that in order to tackle the increase in foodbank usage, she would like to see rent controls put in place.

She said: “I think rising rents and housing being seen as an asset rather than a place to live and call home is a major problem in our society.

“I would love a major party to take that on board.”

In addition to providing emergency food, many foodbanks offer a range of additional services, including debt and financial advice, school holiday lunches and breakfast clubs.

Ms Greenwood said: “We do more than food. Food is the sticking plaster to get people over an emergency for a few weeks.

“We hope that people, after they have visited us, are set out on a different journey, so they don’t need a foodbank anymore.”

Image courtesy of Elanas pantry, with thanks

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