Community News Features

The rough mathematics of food bank use in Barnet

Bob Bevil of Chipping Barnet Foodbank with a discussion paper on food crisis in the borough

Home page for the website of Chipping Barnet Foodbank featuring logo and images of clients
(Credit – Chipping Barnet Foodbank)

As part of the Trussell Trust network of food banks, Chipping Barnet Foodbank provided food to 5053 people experiencing food crisis in 2022.

When clients visit the food bank with their vouchers from referring agencies – such as health services, councils and Citizens Advice – they are issued with parcels that meet their particular need.

A single client will receive a parcel that feeds one, while a family will receive a parcel that feeds the family (so there is more than one person associated with a single parcel).

The Barnet Food Plan (2022-2027) recognises 16 food banks in the London Borough of Barnet registered with the Barnet Food Aid network.

This does not mean there are only 16 food banks in the borough. Given that the various food banks have different origins and to some degree, varying philosophies, the collection of accurate combined information constitutes a challenge.

The Trussell Trust has a vision for a future without a need for food banks and as such collects relatively robust data for advocacy and campaigning purposes. 

Of the other Trussell Trust food banks in the borough with information currently in the public domain, Colindale Foodbank fed 8025 families with 3-day emergency food parcels.

The mathematics of foodbank uptake in the London Borough of Barnet might be said to be “rough.”

Anecdotally, it is accepted that all the food banks are experiencing higher demand. While food poverty existed before, the current “cost-of-living crisis” has driven up demand for emergency food. 

To this end, it is possible to sketch a very broad picture of food bank uptake in the borough on the basis that Chipping Barnet Foodbank is an “average” food bank.

When extrapolated (5053 people fed in 2022 x 16 food banks in the borough), the “rough” figure for the number of people fed by food banks in the borough in 2022 comes out at 80,848.

The figure equates to over 20% of Barnet’s population of 396,000. This does not mean that over 20% of Barnet’s population use food banks. Some may be repeat users of the service (but by no means all). In addition, the figure does not consider those who were issued vouchers by referring agencies and who chose not to attend the food bank for whatever reason. All of these people have unique background stories.

To move away from numbers, it might be more meaningful to think of food bank uptake over the year in the borough visually. Wembley Stadium has a capacity of 90,000. To understand food bank uptake over a year in the borough, think of Wembley Stadium full of clients, of which (Trussell Trust data suggests) just over 52,000 are children.

This is a “rough” and extrapolated picture but it is one which paints a vivid picture with a view to encouraging debate.

Bob Bevil is Advocacy and Campaign Lead at Chipping Barnet Foodbank

In recent weeks, Barnet Post has published a three-part series by investigative journalist Maya Sall looking at how the borough’s food banks are responding to the cost of living crisis.

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