Food poverty exposed by Covid-19 pandemic ‘cannot be unseen’, warns Finchley Road community centre

JW3's Jacob Forman who has driven the Jewish community centre's Covid-19 response to tackle food poverty. Picture: JW3

JW3's Jacob Forman who has driven the Jewish community centre's Covid-19 response to tackle food poverty. Picture: JW3 - Credit: Archant

Food poverty exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic “cannot be unseen”, warned a Finchley Road community centre on Monday.

JW3, which set up a food bank at the start of the pandemic, has joined calls from charities and grassroots groups to protect people without food security – but also develop a long-term strategy to tackle the growing problem.

At Camden Council’s debate on food poverty on October 12, Urban Community Projects, based in King’s Cross, said its food bank users - 80% of whom are Black, Asian and minority ethnic residents - were stigmatised by “shame”.

Camden had the largest uptake of Universal Credit claims of all London boroughs in March and April, and nearly 40% of its children live in relative poverty, a council report showed.

When the national lockdown was announced in March, JW3 started cooking out of its community kitchen for vulnerable, isolated residents and it delivered around 55,000 meals in Camden.

Jacob Forman, JW3’s social action and volunteer coordinator, said: “Both of our projects, cooking and food banking, are going to continue regardless of the impact of the second wave of Covid-19 and further lockdowns – or if there’s no lockdowns at all.

“In many ways, we like others, thought that there wasn’t an issue, but now that we’ve seen it we cannot unsee it.”

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Voluntary Action Camden director Kevin Nunan stressed the need to develop a network of food support not just sustainable financially, but that also preserved people’s “dignity”.

Camden Conservatives’ leader Cllr Oliver Cooper said he was concerned by some of the poor quality of food parcels and that new grassroots organisations established as part of the Covid-19 response needed tailored support.

At the start of the pandemic, Camden Council said it focused on bolstering food banks, funding charities, and providing financial support to poorer households. It helped deliver more than 25,000 food parcels between April and June.

The town hall said it is now stepping up its support services again in preparation for a second wave amid the rising number of coronavirus cases.

Camden’s Council’s health chief Cllr Pat Callaghan said: “Tonight we heard the full picture and story of what food poverty does to people and families, and it mustn’t go on.

“We must do as much as we can in Camden and hope the government listens because you cannot have food poverty anywhere in this country.”