Who would you turn to if you suddenly couldn’t afford to feed yourself or your family?
When Covid-19 hit Britain the nation was put into lockdown; businesses, livelihoods and the economy ground to a halt. Since then food banks across the nation have seen a dramatic surge in demand. For hundreds of thousands of people food banks are the only way they can survive.
“Schools and venues closed, so my income closed,” says Antiqu’e, a freelance musician and artists who lives with her 16 year old son, “that is my livelihood, that’s how I pay my bills, my whole earning ability shut down.”
The Trussell Trust, who organises a network of 1,200 food banks across the UK, has seen an 89% increase in demand for emergency food parcels since Covid-19. Many people employed in the gig economy have seen their work vanish, others in unstable employment have found themselves with no work, even many who thought they had a stable income have seen it disappear.
Anna (not her real name) is a skilled healthcare worker employed by a private company but a genetic disorder means she is vulnerable and cannot see patients face to face. “I want to work, but I have no prospect of getting a salary until there’s a vaccine,” she says. Her income almost disappeared overnight when she suddenly found herself on statutory sick pay. She gets just £95.85 each week and cannot cover all her living costs. The food bank has been a vital for her. “When I was at a low ebb, the fact that someone had put so much thought into a food parcel touched me, it really and truly did.”⠀
Since lockdown I have been volunteering at my local food bank – The South London Food Bank Warehouse. I saw huge amounts of food and essential items coming and going each day, I just couldn’t believe how much the warehouse was giving out. When I talked to the people who had been working there longer, they told me of the dramatic rise in demand since the lockdown started – it was shocking. In April 2020 the South London Food Bank Warehouse fed 3,600 people – three times more than usual. I realised this must also be happening across the nation, so I started documenting it with my camera.
I spent time photographing both the South London Food Bank Warehouse and The Bonny Downs Food Bank in Newham for this project. I witnessed local heroes volunteering their time to support their community. There’s a wonderful positive atmosphere in the food banks, everyone is friendly, no-one is judged, it’s so welcoming. But when you chat to one of the people receiving food you discover just how difficult their life is.
According to the International Monetary Fund we are facing the worst recession since the 1930s. The need for food banks in the UK is sadly only going to rise.
To donate and help food banks across the UK please visit the Trussell Trust or leave some items in the drop box at your local supermarket.