In Croydon, demand exceeds peak Covid as voluntary groups launch Winter campaign.
A survey of independent food banks (including the Food Hub) has found that nearly 80 per cent saw demand increase in August to October 2023 compared with the same period last year.
In the Food Hub’s case, food deliveries increased by nearly 20 per cent, and the number of people receiving food was up by nearly 10 per cent.
The survey of 74 organisations running 173 food banks was carried out in November by IFAN, the Independent Food Aid Network. They called for a range of measures to remove the key drivers of food poverty, including clients having to wait five weeks for Universal Credit. IFAN again called for an Essentials Guarantee to ensure that Universal Credit payments are enough for claimants to afford the basics.
Along with organisations including Barnardo’s and the Children’s Society, IFAN has also urged the Government to continue funding the Household Support Fund (HSF) beyond April 2024. In Croydon vulnerable people in crisis or hardship can apply for a one-off HSF grant to help buy food, gas and electricity or appliances such as a cooker or heater.
Meanwhile the food providers who make up the borough’s Food Bank and Soup Kitchen Network have reported there are now higher numbers of people in food poverty than at the height of the Covid pandemic. At the same time, donations of food and essentials are at “an all-time low”.
As a result, Croydon Voluntary Action (CVA) and the Network with Croydon Mutual Aid have launched the #CroydonCares Winter Warmth campaign to drive an increase in donations – for example, “bring a tin day”.
“It is about joining up activities, increasing awareness and provisions and reducing stigma,” says CVA’s Sarah Burns, Director of Communities. Croydon NHS and Croydon Council have confirmed their support.
Five designated food re-distribution groups have been set up, one in each locality across the borough. These include Emmanuel Church, South Croydon, in Croydon Central West and Old Lodge Lane Baptist Church, Purley, in Croydon South West.