Haringey residents surviving on tins of spam, as borough enters child poverty top-ten
- Credit: Archant
Haringey has one of the worst child poverty rates in the UK, according to new data – and community organisers say Covid-19 is already making the situation worse.
Data analysed by Loughborough University has found that in 2018/19, 42.4 per cent of Haringey children lived in households whose income was less than 60pc of the average.
Labour MP Catherine West, for Hornsey and Wood Green, called the figures “damning, but not surprising”, adding: “Every single day I am contacted by constituents who are in financial difficulty and struggling to put food on the table.”
She said she would urgently raise Haringey’s figures with government.
It comes as Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford continues his campaign for the government to extend full school meals.
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Government voted last week not to fund meals during the October half-term for children who receive free school meals during term time. But Haringey Council pledged to foot the bill, saying it “unequivocally” supported Rashford’s campaign.
According to the Bridge Renewal Trust, a charity which tackles health inequalities in Haringey, coronavirus has both highlighted and worsened the borough’s food poverty problem.
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“Existing grassroots projects have expanded, and new ones have sprung up,” a spokesperson said.
One new project is the St Ann’s food hub.
Co-founder Sam Foster said that during the spring lockdown she volunteered for a new mutual aid group which, among other things, set up a foodbank. She was struck by “the sheer scale of the problem”.
“I think it’s hidden to those of us who are privileged, who haven’t suffered in this way,” she said. “We don’t see it.”
Another new foodbank, in Hornsey, also grew out of a mutual aid group set up in response to the pandemic.
“It lifted the lid on what was obviously pre-existing food insecurity,” said volunteer Anne O’Daly. “Through the people I was picking up shopping and prescriptions for, I became aware of how reliant they were on food parcels and things they were getting from the government.”
As the economic impact of the pandemic has worsened, “the numbers of people coming each week are growing and growing,” said Anne.
“There’s a lot of funding and support for tackling the root causes of food poverty,” said Sam. “But I think people can forget that there are people who are hungry now. I’ve seen people, face-to-face, suffering with malnourishment because they’ve been surviving on tins of spam for months on end because they weren’t getting help from anywhere.”
Most of those affected, in Sam’s experience, have been families. During one recent volunteering session, she said, “Of the 40 or 50 people we handed out bags to, I think only two were single. Everybody else was there for a family. If you suddenly find yourself out of work and you have a family to feed, you’re going to run out of money much quicker than a single person. So it’s often families that suffer.”
Lib Dem councillor Tammy Palmer said food poverty was only one symptom.
“In Haringey there are thousands of families living in one-room properties that are poorly ventilated and insulated,” she said. “The vast majority are hidden because they rent from private landlords or housing associations who often fail to properly maintain homes and have little or no accountability back to the council.
“Many families with poorly insulted homes, for example, will face higher fuel bills and a choice between heating their home or eating.”
Labour councillor Kaushika Amin, cabinet member for children and families, said Haringey’s leaders were “absolutely passionate” about tackling child poverty.
“A series of supportive steps have been, and continue to be, taken to support young people in the borough,” she said.
The council is working with the community and voluntary sector on a food poverty strategy. In the meantime, it has joined forces with community groups to set up Haringey Together – an initiative to deliver aid during the pandemic. It has set up a food alliance, a food distribution hub and funded roughly £500,000 of emergency food.
“There is more that still needs to be done, but central government also has a key role to play in this too,” said Cllr Amin.
Meanwhile, said Sam, foodbanks need volunteers and donations to keep meeting growing demand.
“The pandemic has clearly highlighted the need for hyper-local groups and community-specific groups,” she said. “People that need help shouldn’t be trekking halfway across the borough. But as always, there’s very little funding for groups like this. It’s important that we help each other to sustain these services.”
For information on how to volunteer or donate, visit: https://www.haringey.gov.uk/covid-19/haringey-together