Number of families taking food parcels from Highgate food bank has shot up

50p Thursday's at Highgate Newtown Community Centre: Piictured (from left) volunteers Yvonne Monagha

50p Thursday's at Highgate Newtown Community Centre: Piictured (from left) volunteers Yvonne Monaghan and Linda Trehearne plate up meals in the kitchen. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Polly Hancock

Families hit by rising food costs and benefits cuts are increasingly turning to food parcels for help.

The Highgate Newtown Community Centre, in Bertram Street, gives out 50p lunches and food parcels to families who cannot pay for basic essentials and are now serving 40 more people a week than when the scheme began in September.

At a community meeting on Monday (January 14) at St Anne’s Highgate church in Highgate West Hill, Linda Treherne, who manages the food share scheme, spoke of the shame suffered by young mothers and stricken families who had to ask for her help.

The 62-year-old mother, who lives on the Whittington Estate, said: “People are embarrassed and ashamed. The stigma around this is awful and I know some of these people, so they don’t want to come in and ask.”

Mrs Treherne and her daughter, Michelle West, 40, cook the lunches from scratch using donations from food waste charity FareShare.

She said the service was so vital that people had started knocking on her door to ask for more food.

In October and November, they gave out just eight food parcels but in December the number shot up to 17.

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Mrs Treherne said: “Considering the welfare reform doesn’t really start until April this year, December was manic, and it’s only going to get worse.”

The bleak Christmas suffered by many local families looks set to continue as benefit cuts begin to bite.

December saw the last families taken off the former higher level of local housing allowance and from April, changes like the benefit cap will spell a drop in income for many families.

Councillor Sally Gimson called the community meeting to discuss practical ways the community could help each other withstand the financial strain.

Residents discussed the possibility of opening a base for help and advice for families in crisis.