Newham, London’s most deprived borough, has just one foodbank yet there are three within walking distance of the Houses of Parliament.
The map of foodbanks in London is revealing. It shows that their distribution across the capital is patchy and doesn’t necessarily correspond with the most deprived areas – presumably where they are needed most.
Well healed Clapham and Fulham have foodbanks, but poorer Leytonstone and Walthamstow don’t. Foodbanks are under development in Kensington, Battersea and Richmond, yet in large parts of the city, particularly East London, there are no plans to open any.
This observation seeks not to criticise or trivialize foodbanks in London. There are, of course, hungry people in even the most affluent areas. Moreover, the project is still in its infancy. Run by the Trussell Trust, foodbanks began in 2004 and with the first one set up in London as recently as 2008. Demand grew with the recession. There are now 27 foodbanks across the capital with a further thirteen under development.
From April – September 2012, over 15,000 people used London’s foodbanks. On the one hand, this sounds like a lot but in reality it is only a drop in the ocean when dealing with the city’s problems as a whole.
Food banks have been successful at publicising themselves recently. This positive coverage, however, should not lead to an overstatement of their importance. Ultimately they are a charity not a business or state organisation, only as powerful as the volunteers who donate food and give up their time.
Thus, it’s not entirely surprising the middle class have so far led the way .Whilst every community benefits from a foodbank, the real challenge for the Trust is to find ways to start them in the places that need them most.