Over the past year, Barnet and Camden has seen a sharp rise in food bank use. As a regular volunteer at the Childs Hill Foodbank, I’ve seen demand grow and grow. 

Our communities are doing everything they can to help – and I want to thank the volunteers who are doing an amazing job serving neighbours in need.

The cost of food, clothing, and - crucially - rent and mortgages have risen enormously while wages and pensions simply have not. This is putting a huge strain on thousands of Londoners. 

At City Hall, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has stepped up to help families – who are often at the sharpest end of the cost-of-living crisis – with free school meals for all children in our state primary schools.

I know that these have been a real benefit to London families who have been struggling financially.

However, during school holidays children aren’t there to take advantage of the free hot meal so this support falls away.

Ham & High: Anne Clarke is aware of the benefits to children and families of free school mealsAnne Clarke is aware of the benefits to children and families of free school meals (Image: www.jamesojenkins.co.uk)

Currently, the Government provides food during school breaks for only those children from the very poorest families. But this has excluded approximately half of children in food-insecure households in London – meaning that poorer children have often gone hungry.

City Hall has, once again, taken action to protect Londoners from falling into poverty with an emergency Holiday Hunger programme. 

This package was an urgent response to the cost-of-living crisis. The Mayor gave more than £3.5m to provide around five million free meals during school holidays and at weekends to low-income families across the City.

The programme has been running since Easter, and during last week’s half-term I saw just how powerful it has been. More than 125,000 hot meals have been delivered since the programme launched – removing financial stress from families.

Children across Camden have been able to enjoy a proper meal – which helps them focus, protects their health and supports them to play, so they can get the most out of their crucial early years.

While I know this has been a great benefit to parents in the area, I know that not every Camden resident has children and residents are facing immense financial pressures elsewhere in their lives.

While one part of the cost of living is eased, life remains hugely expensive for Londoners. I will keep using my position as an Assembly Member to campaign for a more affordable and liveable London, so that we can all make the most of our wonderful city and all it has to offer. 

  • Anne Clarke is the London Assembly member for Barnet and Camden.