'We can't afford it': Camden foodbank prepares for spike in demand
- Credit: Castlehaven Community Centre
Camden’s Castlehaven Community Centre set up its emergency foodbank in June last year to help those struggling through the pandemic.
Staff are now worried about a spike in demand over the coming weeks, as the government plans to end its furlough schemes and unfreeze eviction notices after 18 months.
Chief executive Tricia Richards told the Ham&High: “It’s heartbreaking that we are living in one of the richest countries in the world and we’ve got people making decisions whether or not they can pay their bills or feed their families."
Castlehaven’s operations manager, Sharon Baah, said: “We are expecting an increased demand for our foodbank over the next coming weeks.
“It’s a hard choice whether to keep your home warm or put food on the table.”
Eden is a single mother-of-four living in Camden and has been using Castlehaven’s foodbank for a year.
She said: “All the single mums, they are struggling. How do they survive? Sometimes I think about them when I’m struggling.”
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Though she has a qualification in childcare and said she is willing to take on “any job”, Eden has been out of work and struggling to make ends meet.
She receives money from the government, but said it is not enough for her family, and worries about the cost of her electricity bill during the winter.
“I will change the duvet because when you are very poor, you always have to plan, but when you are rich, you don’t have to plan”, she said.
This winter, energy companies are expected to hike up prices, Universal Credit is set to be slashed by £20 a week starting October 6, and the 1.25% National Insurance increase will come into effect in April next year.
Tricia said: “All these people suffering through the pandemic will also suffer with these other massive financial changes coming up."
She has been working on and off at Castlehaven since she was 18, and said the centre had never needed to set up a foodbank before now.
Even in the early 1990s, when poverty peaked nationwide and Castlehaven was running a weekly soup kitchen, she said that it was only used by rough sleepers and those on very low incomes.
In 2021, however, the demographic using the foodbank has changed dramatically.
She said: “People who have worked all their life or are still working long hours, cannot cover their costs of living and they’re having to come to a foodbank, it’s just horrendous.
“We will try our very best to help those most in need during this period that’s coming over the hill.
“Volunteers giving their time as well as financial and food donations, are key to helping those most vulnerable at this moment, particularly during the winter."
Leon Arghyrou, 56, is the owner of Leon’s Fruit Shop in Golders Green, which regularly donates to Castlehaven by adding fruit boxes to orders.
He said: “People are really struggling, we’ve just been through nearly two years of hell, and we are still going through it.
“It’s doom and gloom everywhere and you just want to be doing something nice."
Leon invites other charities in need to get in touch with his shop.
Tricia said: “It’s pretty phenomenal what we’ve been able to do here at Castlehaven, purely through the kindness of people”.
However, with many foodbanks across London forced to close due to food shortages and volunteers to run them, the chief executive said Castlehaven faces a tough future.
“We can’t afford to continue to provide food to such a level that we do,” she said.
“We need donations all of the time, the volunteers who keep the foodbank going are vital, without them there is no way we would be able to do this.”
According to The Trussell Trust, a charity that operates half of UK foodbanks, London was the only region where the number of food parcels it distributed more than doubled between 2019-20 and 2020-21.