Despite being one of the wealthiest countries in the world, the UK’s rate of food poverty is among the highest in Europe, affecting over 8 million people in 2020.
Studies have shown a rise in social and economic inequality in the UK over the past decade, including unequal access to adequate nutrition. Studies also show that food insecurity impacts the UK population unequally, with rates of food poverty and malnutrition disproportionately high among BAME communities, people with disabilities, low-income families and children.
Malnutrition and other experiences related to food insecurity have a number of consequences for those directly impacted, including lowered life expectancy, weakened immunity, poorer mental health and wellbeing, lower educational outcomes and unstable employment.
With the largest number of people living below the poverty line, London has a particularly high number of households experiencing food insecurity. A shocking survey conducted in 2019 showed that one in six children and one in five adults living in London had insufficient access to food.
Since the start of the pandemic, the number of people reliant on food banks to support their dietary needs in London and across the UK has escalated as rates of poverty and inequality have increased.
Wanting to bring to light the food crisis occurring in my neighbourhood, I interviewed Lindsey Wylie, a charity worker and donations manager at a local food bank operating at the Ringcross Community Centre in Islington.
“The impact [of COVID-19] has been unimaginable.”, Lindsey told me, “It continues to rise, and we continue to hear really sad stories of people who are struggling to feed their families.”.
Organised by the Pilion Trust and the Alexandra Wylie Tower Foundation, the North London food bank has been operating since 2017 but has seen a rapid increase in the number of families reliant on their support since the start of the pandemic.
“We had six to 15 people [using the food bank] a day before COVID, and we’re now up to almost 150 a day three times a week as well as another 100 deliveries a week.”
Although the food bank has witnessed a tragic increase in the number of people experiencing food poverty in the local area, they have been grateful to see increasing numbers of people volunteering and donating to those in need.
“It’s extraordinary how so many people have been touched by the plight of those they see in the food bank queue, and we get endless streams of people dropping by with little bits and tins or organising bigger collections in their streets.”
With the recent opening up of non-essential businesses, however, the food bank has unfortunately seen a drop in donations while its visitors continue to increase.
With food poverty predicted to rise over the coming years as the financial impacts of COVID-19 exacerbate inequality in the UK, it is more important than ever to support charities helping underprivileged communities survive such pressing times.
Photos of the Ringcross Community Centre food bank by Lydia Rose