Local politicians have spoken out at a “scandalous” rise in food bank use in Hackney.
The Trussell Trust published figures last week revealing that 6,112 three-day emergency food supplies were given out in Hackney between April 2018 and March 2019, marking an increase of 44 per cent on the previous year.
Cllr Chris Kennedy (Lab, Hackney Wick), who was recently appointed to oversee work on a new local Food Poverty Action Plan, said that the council was “shocked” at the scale of the rise in food bank use, and called for “national changes in policy”.
He said: “Food poverty is one of the greatest scandals of 21st century Britain. In the sixth richest country in the world, benefit cuts, a broken housing market, and rising in-work poverty means eight million people have trouble putting food on the table.
“We are doing all we can to support Hackney’s most vulnerable families, but in the long term to reverse this trend we will need national changes in the policies fuelling this rise. In the meantime we recognise the importance and need for emergency support such as that provided by the food bank.
“We have been shocked by the way that usage of the local food bank has increased, and we provide financial support towards their core operations through a grant and subsidised accommodation.”
The new action plan is led by the Hackney Food Poverty Alliance, in partnership with Hackney Council and with funding from charity Sustain’s project Food Power, which seeks to reduce food poverty through locally-developed solutions.
Local London Assembly Member, Jennette Arnold OBE AM, said: “It is scandalous that we are continuing to see a growing dependence on food banks in our community.
“Whilst the government is well aware of the key factors that are driving so many local families into food poverty, they are choosing not to act. Instead, they are shamefully passing on their duty of care to most vulnerable in society onto charities and a beleaguered public sector.
“Sadly, these figures are likely to be just the tip of the iceberg, but they should provide a wake-up call for the government. They must now urgently step in to address the issue of low pay and fully confront the consequences of their disastrous welfare reforms.
“The future of so many young Londoners is being blighted by the inaction of government. Malnutrition impacts on physical and social well-being and most importantly can affect the cognitive development of children.”
Hackney Council says it is the largest funder of lunch clubs in London and has committed to funding free school meals for families that have no recourse to public funds.