The number of people in need has reached an all-time high according to the founder of an appeal that donates presents to children in extreme poverty.

Jenna Fansa, 41, said parents in north London are being forced to choose between heating their homes or buying food.

The Hackney-based founder is now running her ninth Winter Toy Appeal to buy gifts for poverty-stricken families living in Haringey, Islington, Hackney, Barnet, and Tower Hamlets.

Jenna told the Hackney Gazette: “It's this show of warmth from the community. Donating makes a big difference to the parents but also to a child, for whom it’s important to believe that Santa is fair and comes for everybody."

Ham & High: Jenna's daughter Poppy gets into the Christmas spiritJenna's daughter Poppy gets into the Christmas spirit (Image: Courtesy of Jenna Fansa)

Run by the Local Buyers Club, which offers discounts for independent shops and businesses, the appeal donates toys from local shops to help high streets “retain their character and local economies to thrive”.

Last year, the toys reached more than 5,000 children. However, Jenna warned that more families are facing unprecedented challenges this year due to rising fuel costs, universal credit cuts, and global crises.

"We've already had referrals from Afghan refugees with children who have nothing,” she said.

“The reason we call it a Winter Toy appeal and not a Christmas Appeal is because our toys go to children of all faiths. It's something to everybody.”

Jenna expressed concern about this year’s appeal as referrals for gifts have increased and donations are unlikely to meet the demand.

The mother of two, who is based in Stoke Newington, said: “It’s possible to live in a bubble but north London has areas with massive levels of deprivation. I see the unfairness of it all and others within the community see it all as well.”

Statistics from Loughborough University showed that from 2019 to 2020 Hackney had the second highest rate of poverty in the UK.

Due to supply shortages, Jenna has urged the public to donate as soon as possible so that gifts can arrive before Christmas day.

“Imagine being a child on Christmas morning without a present or a parent unable to give that present to your child,” she said.

“We really need people to donate.”

To donate search Winter Toy Appeal 2021 at