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Coronavirus: Demand for supplies from Archway food bank triples during lockdown

PUBLISHED: 13:21 22 April 2020 | UPDATED: 13:51 22 April 2020

Natalie Stewart, Bryony Hirsch and Kim Staines in final preparations for The Hive Food Bank, which will operate from St Mary's Hornsey Rise church. Picture: Action PR

Natalie Stewart, Bryony Hirsch and Kim Staines in final preparations for The Hive Food Bank, which will operate from St Mary's Hornsey Rise church. Picture: Action PR

Archant

Demand for supplies from an Archway food bank has trebled since the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown was declared.

Natalie Stewart, Bryony Hirsch and Kim Staines in final preparations for The Hive Food Bank, which will operate from St Mary's Hornsey Rise church. Picture: Action PRNatalie Stewart, Bryony Hirsch and Kim Staines in final preparations for The Hive Food Bank, which will operate from St Mary's Hornsey Rise church. Picture: Action PR

With the UK is in its fifth week of lockdown and economists warning we could be on the brink of the deepest recession in 300 years, the Hive Food Bank run from St Mary’s Church in Ashley Road is more vital than ever.

Bryony Hirsch, Natalie Stewart and Kim Staines co-founded the independent food bank in 2016, but they’ve never been more reliant on donations to feed some of the most vulnerable people in the community.

Bryony told the Gazette: “We are getting about three times the number of people accessing the services as we normally would.

“We’re normally quite a small food bank and this has kind of blown up, partially I think because of the closure of Islington Food Bank, so we are getting a lot of their referrals.”

Islington Food Bank in Ronalds Road, run by The Trussell Trust, was forced to temporarily close last month due to Covid-19.

Bryony added: “A lot of vulnerable people who might have been fine before might have to self-isolate, or they might have lost their jobs so can’t afford to buy themselves food.

“We’re seeing a lot of people returning to the service that we haven’t seen for a couple of years, so that’s kind of an indication of how dire things are because people have come through their short-term crisis and don’t need to access the service anymore, that’s great, we’re now seeing those faces back again as well.

“The number is increasing dramatically every week. The important thing to note is it is treble what we would normally be and that’s a big impact on us.”

In order to stay open and run safely, Hive food bank has had to “completely adapt” and implement social distancing measures.

Bryony added: “Previously our onus was on it being a nice warm friendly place where people could come in, have a cup of tea, sit down and chat to people.

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“Obviously, that kind of set up isn’t really working so we’ve had to completely rejig how we run the sessions, so we’ve got people queuing out the door which isn’t the most pleasant thing in the world but we’re enforcing social distancing.”

Bryony says everyone working at the food bank has protective equipment, and they’re having to pre-pack all food parcels rather than tailoring them to people as they usually would.

The food bank struggled for supplies in the first few week of the crisis because fewer people were making donations and panic buying meant they couldn’t get everything the needed from supermarkets.

But Bryony says things have improved slightly in recent weeks, though donations are still needed, especially long-life milk, tinned fruit, tinned puddings, sugar, tinned fish and tinned meat, as well as the usual staples like pasta, rice and beans.

Bryony added: “Our donations are amazing, the community has really gathered around but we had a lot of food in last week before the session and I was really pleased and then by the end of the session we had basically been decimated, so it goes to show how quickly we are getting through what people are giving us so it need’s to be a constant thing, definitely.

“This is going to be a long-lasting crisis so even after the initial stages of this hopefully pass then there will still be a hell of a lot of people out of work, a lot of people experiencing benefits delays and we’re going to be seeing a higher influx of people through the doors for many months to come unfortunately, so we need the continued support of the community.”

Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn last month urged readers to support their local food bank during the pandemic.

He told the Gazette: “I thank the volunteers locally who have done so much to help people and ask all members of the Labour Party to do all they can in the community.

“I’m very worried about the supply of the food banks so urge all of us who can to give they can to the food bank. [...]

“Ten years of austerity – we are now learning the price for it, and I hope that when this crisis is over we will realise we can no longer go on putting services at risk.”

Hive runs distribution sessions every Wednesday evening from 5.30pm and the church takes donation between 1pm and 3pm, Monday to Friday.

If you can’t donate during these hours, email: hivefoodbank@gmail.com

Do you know community heroes helping those in need during the Covid-19 pandemic who deserve recognition? Send suggestions to Lucas.Cumiskey@archant.co.uk


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