A food bank has been forced to operate from a car park after being told to leave a community centre in Brixton.
Southwyck Pantry were given an eviction notice after they could not afford the rent that was recently imposed onto Southwyck Community Centre, and have since moved to the car park outside of Brixton Street Gym.
The pantry aims to offer a range of fresh food at a low cost to those who have financially struggled over the pandemic.
Boyd Hill, 40 and staff member at Brixton Gym, said: “It’s absolute madness, because it is one of the most vital services.
“If we had not stepped in, it would have shut down.”
Currently, there are over 100 people on the pantry’s database, but since the eviction, people have struggled to shop for their food there.
Boyd added: “The importance of it being at Southwyck Community Centre is that for some of the elderly, they are able to walk there and back, especially because they get tired if they’re carrying too much weight on their trolleys.
“It’s essential that they can actually walk to the place or we can deliver the food to them.”
The pantry also brought a social element to a lot of residents who have felt isolated during the pandemic.
Carla Thomas, 38, pantry Coordinator at Healthy Living platform, said: “It is what some people look forward to, they might spend their week looking forward to that break in isolation because for some people, it is the only time they can catch up with others, and so it becomes a sociable space.
“It’s been quite disruptive and it’s having a knock on effect on our members.
“They’re having to fret about having to queue up outside in the cold, they’re having to wait around.
“If there’s been a little drop in communication somewhere and they have missed the notice, or they weren’t there when we announced the move or the changing opening times, they simply do not know where we are, and it is having an effect on numbers.”
A petition was launched on the Lambeth website which received 276 signatures to save the pantry.
The council responded saying it wants the scheme to survive, and talks over the use of Southwyck Hall are underway.
A report by the Trussel Trust, the UK’s biggest food bank distributor, revealed that 2.5 million food bank parcels were given in the past year, which was a 33% increase on the year before during the start of pandemic, around 50% of foodbank users had never needed one before, and families with children were the ones to be hit hardest during the pandemic.
Statistics supplied by the Trussell trust shows that food bank usage in the UK has more-than doubled over the past years, with 1,091,282 food parcels being supplied by the Trussel Trust in 2014/2015, to 2,537,198 being supplied in 2020/2021.
Helen Hayes, Labour MP for Dulwich and West Norwood, visited the pantry on 13 January and helped serve customers, along with Scarett O’Hara, Labour councillor for Coldharbour, Lambeth.
Scarett O’Hara said: “I fully support Southwyck Pantry and the very good and useful work that Carla and the team do there.
“It’s appalling that pantries and food banks are needed in 2022 but under this government they clearly are.
“Southwyck Pantry offers more than just healthy food, it’s a warm and welcoming place for a wide variety of local people who need a bit of help right now.”