Distribution of food bank parcels in London’s wealthier boroughs has risen higher than the national average since 2017, research shows.
The report revealed that there has been a 135% increase in parcels distributed in The Trussell Trust network in England since the year 2017/18, with a 37% increase in parcels distributed since the year 2021/22 alone.
Total food parcel distribution in London’s wealthiest boroughs rose by an average of just over 140% in the same period, with some services struggling to keep up with demand.
The findings come as London joins the rest of the UK in experiencing the most difficult cost of living crisis in a generation.
The capital has one of the highest unemployment and poverty rates in the country, with women, the disabled and minority ethnic communities being especially hard hit.
Hina Bokhari is a Liberal Democrat Member of the London Assembly Economy Committee which has researched food insecurity in the capital.
She said: “So many Londoners are now being faced with the stark situation where they have to choose whether to eat or go hungry to keep a roof over their heads.
“What is even more stark in the last few years is how food banks are now no longer treated as a last resort solution to the crisis we face, instead they have become normalised.
“Our work on the London Assembly Economy Committee has found that food insecurity is at epidemic levels across London, and contrary to popular belief, it is not just affecting those on low incomes or single-parent families or those who have been traditionally more susceptible to food poverty.
“We have found that most food bank users are ‘middle class professionals’ who work and often have more than one job, but this simply isn’t enough to make ends meet in current circumstances.”
In Ealing, the total number of parcels rose from 5,713 to 42,335, causing an overall increase of 641%.
Ealing is a large borough with varying levels of wealth and deprivation and a poverty rate that is 9% higher than London’s average.
Responding to the rise, an Ealing Council spokesperson said the Council acknowledged the significant increase in food bank use in the borough and that Council officers regularly meet Ealing Food Bank representatives to review the latest figures.
Councillor Polly Knewstub, Ealing Council’s cabinet member for thriving communities, added: “It is nothing short of scandalous that in 2024, foodbank use continues to rise.
“The council works closely with our local food banks to provide advice and support for their clients, and does everything possible to offer assistance to those Ealing residents struggling with the cost of living crisis.”
In Camden, the rise was slightly lower at 611% from 6,280 to 44,709.
According to Rightmove research published in May, Camden is the second most expensive area to buy a home in London with an average asking price of £1.28 million.
Camden’s median gross annual pay is £44,873. Lower than central London but higher than Greater London and the UK national average of £34,963.
Bokhari’s concerns mirror those of The Trussell Trust who have reported food banks changing their opening hours to suit working people, with new services being offered to enable more people to access food banks outside of working hours.
Oli Kelly-Dean is Trussell Trust Area Manager for West & South London.
He said: “We’re seeing growing numbers of working people on low incomes and zero hours contracts with significant debts coming to the Trussell Trust for support.
“Even in boroughs where total wealth is high the inequality can be extreme.”
Richmond for example, has the fourth-highest median salary and the seventh-highest average house price in London at £35,965 and £952,034 respectively.
Despite this broad trend of affluence, the number of parcels distributed by Richmond Trussell Trust rose by 187% from 2017/18 to 2022/23.
Kelly-Dean added: “Because of the inflation in property prices in London in the last few decades, you have people living in severe poverty near those who are multi-millionaires and even billionaires.
“Richmond is a nice borough, but there are still pockets of deprivation, and they exist all over London.”
Visit the Trussell Trust website for more information on food banks and cost of living support near you.
Featured image credit: Gleren Meneghin & Donna Spearman via Unsplash