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‘People are desperate’: Islington Foodbank referrals up 60 per cent in a year

PUBLISHED: 12:03 08 May 2017 | UPDATED: 16:02 09 May 2017

James Rose and Islington Foodbank volunteers at Highbury Roundhouse on Saturday. Picture: Polly Hancock

James Rose and Islington Foodbank volunteers at Highbury Roundhouse on Saturday. Picture: Polly Hancock

Archant

Don’t run away with the idea that everyone in Islington is living the life of Riley. It was the message of Jeremy Corbyn as he launched his general election campaign last month. And nowhere is this more apparent than Highbury Roundhouse.

James Rose and Islington Foodbank volunteers at Highbury Roundhouse on Saturday. Picture: Polly HancockJames Rose and Islington Foodbank volunteers at Highbury Roundhouse on Saturday. Picture: Polly Hancock

Between 2pm and 5pm on Mondays and Saturdays, this is where Islington Foodbank provides a lifeline to people who can’t afford to eat.

Disturbingly, its referrals are growing ever higher. In 2016/17, there were 4,452, up 60 per cent from 2,773 in 2015/2016.

Assistant manager James Rose has noticed the difference: “When I first started volunteering a couple of years ago, the place would be quiet after an hour. You’d be waiting around with nothing to do.

“Whereas today, we need up to 10 volunteers. It’s so busy that we don’t stop working at any point of the shift.

“Clients queue outside before we open at 2pm. People are really, really hungry. They are desperate for food. It’s very sad.”

It’s not just the numbers that have changed, either.

James Rose and Islington Foodbank volunteers at Highbury Roundhouse on Saturday. Picture: Polly HancockJames Rose and Islington Foodbank volunteers at Highbury Roundhouse on Saturday. Picture: Polly Hancock

“We’ve also seen a different demographic,” James says. “When the Foodbank launched in 2011, our main clients would generally be single males. Now we have an increasing number of families. You regularly see children at collections.”

So why is this the case? James explains: “You can’t speak for everyone. But some of it is because more people know we exist. And a lot of it is to do with the benefits system. People have had their benefits cancelled, or delayed.

“A lot of people in Islington are living on the breadline anyway, so the smallest change in circumstances can leave people with no money at all.”

Like any food bank, Islington relies on donations from businesses and individuals, as well as food drives from supermarkets in the borough. And James appealed: “We are grateful for any donations.”

For more information, visit islington.foodbank.org.uk

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