More than 150 emergency food parcels per week given to Barnet children during pandemic
More than 150 emergency food parcels were handed out to children in Barnet every week during the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic.
That’s according to a report by the Trussell Trust showing a record 2.5 million parcels were distributed by its network of food banks across the UK in 2020-21. The charity is urgently calling on UK governments to end the need for food banks “once and for all” amid soaring demand for help from families in crisis.
In Barnet, the charity handed out 21,533 emergency food parcels over the period. Of those, 8,760 went to children – equivalent to 168 every week. The overall figure, which includes parcels with three or seven days’ worth of supplies, was more than double the total number recorded the previous year. But the charity warned its data does not come close to revealing the full scale of demand across the country, with unprecedented numbers of people being helped by other organisations that sprang up during the pandemic.
“No one should face the indignity of needing emergency food,” said Emma Revie, chief executive of the Trussell Trust. “Yet our network of food banks has given out record numbers of food parcels as more and more people struggle without enough money for the essentials.
“This is not right but we know we can build a better future.”
In Barnet, multiple grassroots organisations are distributing food to those in need, including Sufra North West London a charity that works with a number of organisations based in, or supporting those living in Barnet - such as Homeless Action Barnet, Turning Point and Barnet Refugee Centre. Farah Lungay, a spokesperson for Sufra said:
"The demand on food aid at Sufra and across the food aid network has been unprecedented since the pandemic struck last year. Sufra alone has experienced a 300%+ increase in demand for food aid, which places huge burdens on our already stretched food aid services.
"We’ve had to scale up our service drastically and expand to meet the presented need – such as with our hot meal service which supports hundreds of people physically and financially unable to cook their own meals. A disproportionate number of those we support have lost their jobs and are unable to make ends meet, and overall, the pandemic has pushed a significant swathe of locals into an acute financial crisis.
"The sentiment amongst food aid distributors like ourselves is that food aid is essential – but it is not the solution to food poverty. Access to nutritious food is a human right and it is the responsibility of governments, not charities, to create the conditions needed to uphold these rights. To enable all people to meet their basic needs and live in dignity the UK government needs to pursue policies that ensure wealth, power and resources are shared more equally between all people."
Trussell Trust is urging the public to write to their local candidates standing for election on 6th May, asking them to commit to working to end the need for food banks if elected. It is also calling on all levels of the UK government to develop a plan to end the need for their use.
Across the UK, the 2.5 million parcels handed out in 2020-21 represented a 33% increase on the previous year. Of those, around 980,000 (39%) went to children.
Sabine Goodwin, the coordinator of the Independent Food Aid Network, said that independent food banks across the UK were also seeing a “relentless” need for help.
“Now more than ever, our social security system needs to be reset, local authority support schemes involving crisis grants prioritised and adequate wages and secure work ensured,” she added.
“It's the Government's responsibility to stop hunger from happening in the first place so that everyone is able to afford to buy food and other essentials."
A government spokesman said: “We are committed to supporting the lowest-paid families and have targeted support to those most in need by raising the living wage, spending hundreds of billions to safeguard jobs, boosting welfare support by billions, and introducing the £269m Covid Local Support Grant to help children and families stay well-fed.
“We know that getting into well-paid work is the best route out of poverty, and our multi-billion pound Plan for Jobs is helping people across the country re-join the workforce as restrictions are eased.”