A record number of emergency supplies was handed out by Wandsworth Food Bank in the last year, with more than a third of food supplies going to children.
From April 2018 to March 2019, 5,770 three-day packages were given to local people in times of crisis – up 11% on 2017-18 and 78% from 2013-14 when it opened.
And 37% of this year’s referrals were for children, the majority of whom are primary school age or younger.
According to campaigning group End Child Poverty, 36% of children in Wandsworth live in poverty, once essential housing costs are taken into account.
Children in the Queenstown and Roehampton and Putney Heath wards (where 51% of children live in poverty) are particularly effected, as well as those in Latchmere ward (47%).
These are also the three wards that had the most referrals to the food bank last year.
The food bank has released a report, as it does every year, looking at reasons for the crisis and trying to work out what needs to be done.
One person who works at a school and refers families to the food bank, said during the research: “If it wasn’t for the food bank I just do not know how our families would manage.
“There would be far more ill health due to lack of food, more segregation due to lack of appropriate clothing and hygiene, and depression due to being unable to provide basics for your family.
“I’ve never seen life being so hard for so many.”
Services like the NHS and Wandsworth Council made two thirds (64%) of all referrals during the year (one in four were from the council alone), which the food bank argues indicates that it is now an “integral part of the social security net” – even though it was never supposed to be.
Department for Work and Pensions policy prevents job centres from becoming referral partners, but the government encourages them to “signpost” people to food banks and other charities – 11% of referrals came this way.
Dan Frith, Wandsworth Food Bank manager, said: “When you’ve worked all year helping people climb out of the river, it’s vital to go upstream and see what’s pushing them in.
“When we set up Wandsworth Food Bank in 2013 we hoped we wouldn’t be needed for long. But sadly the need for emergency food continues to increase – by 78% in five years.
“There are always mixed feelings running a food bank. It’s a privilege to stand alongside and support local people who’ve been pulled into poverty and crisis; to work with our amazing team of 200-plus regular volunteers, and everyone who generously donated 64 tonnes of food and basic toiletries to help others in our community.
“It’s great to be able to provide specialist advice in partnership with Citizens Advice Wandsworth, to help people resolve the problems that have pulled them in to crisis.
“But it’s not right that anyone in Wandsworth should need to use a food bank to meet their or their family’s basic needs. No-one – and no child – in our country should be put in that position in the first place.
“We’re glad to be able to help, but it’s a concern when small charities like ours are becoming relied upon as an integral part of the social security system – when that system should and could be the very one that prevents poverty and hunger.”
By LDRS Reporter Calum Rutter