Foodbank reveals bleak picture of poverty in Hackney


Melanie Rochford and Will from Hackney Food Bank

In the face of tremendous adversity and ever-worsening local poverty, Hackney Foodbank is providing a vital lifeline for thousands of people.

What are the issues?

The rising cost of living, stagnating and sometimes falling wages, less job stability, changes to benefits and soaring private rents are causing people in our community to go hungry.

In 2017 Hackney Foodbank dependency increased by 24%. Of the almost 4,000 people they provided emergency food parcels to last year, a quarter were the working poor and over a quarter (28%) were children.

And two major events on the horizon are threatening to make things even worse – the arrival of the summer holidays, when parents who usually rely on free school meals will have extra mouths to feed and the rolling out of Universal Credit in October.

Melanie Rochford of Hackney Foodbank described the local picture as: “very bleak.”

She added: “The private rental sector is increasingly picking up the slack caused by dwindling social housing stock, so landlords can call the shots when it comes to how much rent to charge.“When people come to us they’re usually at rock bottom – many are suffering with mental illness. When you see the worries these people have and how much they’re struggling it’s easy to see how mental illness can start.

“We see a lot of single parents. Many focus on feeding the kids, paying the rent and paying for items like school uniforms and utilities but don’t have enough to eat – they start to get into arrears with the rent. Any kind of delay in benefit payment can be the final straw. We’re hearing about poor nutrition in children and we’re seeing parents who go hungry."

What is needed?

Melanie continued: "With summer around the corner, we’re seeking to raise funds to start a summer holiday lunch programme at one of our centres, down in Hoxton, to help stop children going hungry during the holidays.

“Some parents worry about losing their children if the authorities realise how bad things have become.

We are bracing ourselves for how the rolling out of Universal Credit might play out. I think it will be dire. We are hearing about claimants having to wait up to five weeks to receive their first payment or while they switch from one benefits system to Universal Credit. That means people with no savings have literally no income for five weeks.

Hackney Foodbank, which takes referrals from around 200 local agencies, is calling for the public to urgently pledge either a one-off donation or sign up to donating monthly.

Money raised will help them launch new distribution sites to meet local need, help fund staff costs and enable them to buy emergency provisions when food stocks run desperately low.

Since its launch last summer, the Local Buyers Club has donated a share of its profits to buy supplies for Hackney Foodbank, set up new permanent drop-off points for the community to donate food and, with its sister company StokeyParents, collected meals at Christmas for families in crisis. The club has collected the equivalent to more than 1,500 meals for people in poverty.

Melanie added: “We’re incredibly grateful for the ongoing support of the Local Buyers Club – in the winter when our stocks were very low they put out a social media post that reached over 60,000 people and we had a phenomenal response – donations of food and phone-calls from people offering to help.

How you can help.