Food bank users now rising too quickly for donations to keep up

Organiser warns ‘working poor’ are struggling to eat

Friday, 20th May — By Anna Lamche

Foodbanks 2 new savvas panas

Savvas Panas at Ringcross Foodbank

ISLINGTON’S largest food bank has been forced to cut back on its operating hours amid an urgent appeal for food donations.

Until recently, Ringcross Foodbank in Holloway was open three days a week, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

But according to food bank director Savvas Panas, “reduced supplies and increased numbers” using the service mean the Foodbank is now being forced to close on Fridays.

“We’ve had to cut back on a day because we’re just not getting the donations any more,” Mr Panas said.

“Supermarkets are struggling. People are not putting one extra item in the bag because they can’t afford it – our supplies have gone.”

Other changes may be on their way too.

Mr Panas said that Wednesday’s opening hours may soon shift to the evening.

“Everyone does food banks during business hours, but that’s not capturing the people who are really having a bad time – the ones who are working full-time and still struggling to make ends meet,” he said.

As the cost of living crisis spirals, surging food poverty rates mean more people than ever before are relying on Ringcross for support.

Before April “we were at about 187 households every day we were open. Now we’re at over 210,” Mr Panas said.

He said volunteers at the food bank are seeing increasing numbers of people “having mental health crises” in their queues, often caused by the stress of skyrocketing utility bills.

Recently Mr Panas said he has been working to support families whose gas and electricity costs are no longer included in their rent.

“For the last year, landlords have quietly been transferring [responsibility for] electricity and gas accounts from the landlord to the tenant,” Mr Panas said.

Surging food poverty rates in Islington are also fuelling a rise in childhood obesity levels, Mr Panas added, because “ambient” foods are often cheaper and are regularly given out by food banks across the borough.

He warned: “Children are getting bigger and their eating habits are getting worse.”

Meanwhile The Trussell Trust, which runs another major food bank in Highbury, has released its statistics for the previous year.

The trust said 5,784 food parcels were given out to people in need in the borough in the year to March. Almost a third of these parcels were given to children.

Sem Moema, Islington’s representative at the London Assembly, called the figures “heart-wrenching,” adding the statistics were “even more worrying” because “they reflect the situation before the surge in energy bills and increase in national insurance contributions.”

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