‘This is a crisis that can affect any family’: Highgate woman makes thousands of deliveries to food banks

Naomi Russell and Jo Rosenblatt outside Naomi's Highgate garage, which doubles as the HQ of Food Ban

Naomi Russell and Jo Rosenblatt outside Naomi's Highgate garage, which doubles as the HQ of Food Bank Aid. Picture: Danny Halpin - Credit: Archant

A Highgate woman has turned her garage into a distribution centre to support food banks across north London.

Naomi Russell’s organisation, Food Bank Aid: North London, delivers 7,000-8,000 shopping bags of food each week to 16 food banks, from Euston to as far out as Borehamwood and Bushy.

She told the Ham&High: “I started this in April after a local collection to support food banks.”

It was so successful that she carried on, asking volunteers through WhatsApp to make deliveries.

“One of the questions people often ask me is why they should donate food here and not straight to the food banks. I say if you donate food here, we’ll send it to where it’s needed most.”

Beyond providing supplies, Naomi has created a network of communication between food banks so they can share excess food and make specific requests for what is needed.

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Across north London, demand for food banks has sky-rocketed during the pandemic. Castlehaven Community Centre in Camden started its food bank, serving the NW1 area, less than a month ago and is now supporting 240 families with 70 parcels a week.

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Jo Rosenblatt, who volunteers in admin and communications for Food Bank Aid, told this newspaper the problem is worsening, and not confined to any socioeconomic group.

She said: “This is a crisis that can affect any family at any economic level.

“We’re going into a huge global recession and this is the knock-on effect: increased poverty.”

At first, many of the new people using food banks were travel and hospitality workers, but now even those with large houses in affluent areas are having to go after being made redundant overnight.

“Those on benefits are seen as the rich,” Jo said. “People who put away money, had a bit of savings, that’s depleted. Now they have no choice but to go to food banks.”

She added that demand will surge even further as the furlough scheme and mortgage holidays wind down.

Food Bank Aid has 90 volunteers who help to transport food and even use their homes as drop-off points for donors.

Anyone wishing to donate food or to volunteer should contact the organisation through its Facebook page or email foodbankaid@gmail.com.