Wandsworth Food Bank: Sharp increase in families needing support

Politicians need to act now to prevent further poverty and hunger, according to the author of Wandsworth Food Bank’s 2017-2018 report.

Sarah Chapman produced Poverty, hunger and social insecurity: experiences of food bank guests and referral agencies in Wandsworth borough 2017-2018, which shows that 1,000 separate children were referred to the food bank in the last year.

Sarah concluded that more local people were referred to the food bank than ever before with 1209 individual households were referred for emergency food.

She said: “Nobody really wants to be at a food bank so we try and make it as dignified as possible.

“I do think it can change with the right political will, the right policies and good implementation.

“I hope that one day we just won’t be needed anymore.”

The report centred on the experiences of guests and referral agencies and built a picture of the lives of those relying on food banks.

John a Wandsworth, a food bank guest, said: “These people are angels. I don’t know what I would have done if they weren’t there.

“Places like these need to be screamed about from the top of buses.”

The impact of hardship and hunger is also explored in the report, with mental health stated as an increasing problem for many.

96% of referral agencies surveying experienced poorer mental heath and 47% experienced suicidal thought or attempts.

Upon release of this report councillors stated the need for quick action and although Wandsworth Foodbank was a necessity for numerous families in Wandsworth it should not be a long term solution.

Labour councillor for Merton and Wandsworth, Leonie Cooper, said: “This report is showing that we have a crisis on our hands.

“We’re a really rich country and here we are saying that 1 in 3 children in Wandsworth are living in food poverty which quite frankly I think is pretty outrageous.”

The impact food shortages have on young families were explored, with 77% of emergency food went to children of primary school age children or younger.

The report has put forward an eleven points of improvement that Ms Chapman and her colleagues hope the report will prompt.

One of these key points is travel, the report proposes the government should cover the cost of travel for foodbank guests outside the borough to enable them to attend the foodbank without being out-of-pocket.

Universal credit was also discussed as a potential issue for many users of the foodbank as it could result in many people waiting up to five weeks to receive credit.

This is worry not just prevalent in Wandsworth, Caroline Ferrier, the foodbank manager for Richmond’s foodbank said although Richmond is seen as one of the richest London boroughs it does not mean that residents are not in need of emergency food and support.

Ms Ferrier said: “There’s not a type of person it affects, it could be anyone, you or me.

“It’s inhuman to leave people without food.”

Both banks also acknowledged the stigma associated with being referred to a foodbank.

Ms Ferrier said: “A lot of people find the first time the hardest.

“Many burst into tears or feel mortified or embarrassed to be here.”

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