The coronavirus pandemic has affected us all. Whether it’s self-isolation, loneliness, or mourning the loss of a loved one – there isn’t a single person who hasn’t been affected.

However, the majority of us have the privilege of having food on the table and having paycheques arrive in the post. It’s those who are the most marginalised in our society who really struggle in crises like these. And when people can’t get food on their table – it’s food banks that step up to the challenge.

To get an insight into how food banks assist those in need, I interviewed Oonah Lacey, a project adviser at Hounslow Community FoodBox.

‘The aim of FoodBox is to provide 7 days of food,’ says Oonah, ‘to anyone facing food poverty living in the London Borough of Hounslow’.

Running a food bank is much harder than it sounds, with a multitude of tasks to be fulfilled: ‘We are a volunteer-only registered charity, and on a daily basis, we have a team out making home deliveries, and others collecting donations,’ says Oonah, ‘In the office, we have volunteers managing the stock (fresh, frozen and non-perishable) and preparing parcels for delivery or collection.’

‘There are volunteers contacting clients to arrange appointments, processing of referrals, updating databases, monitoring stock levels, reporting food items required, welcoming and talking to clients and making them feel welcome and listening for opportunities to sign post to other services that may be able to help.’

However, coronavirus has added pressure on food banks. ‘Covid had a huge impact, increasing the number of referrals to over 13,000 adults and children, representing a 400% increase in demand,’ Oonah said. ‘We had to take on an additional premise to be able to manage the preparation of food parcels following government guidance and had to increase our levels of stock.’

This totals to a jaw-dropping 250,000 meals. Helped by kind donations from the local community and local business, the team pulled through to support not only those in poverty, but also those that were isolating.

To pile crisis upon crisis, food banks are facing a new issue: the Universal Credit Cut. Back in March 2020, the government announced that the allowance in Universal Credit would go up by £20 a week. However, that scheme officially ends on 6 October – although the exact date depends on when people usually get paid. This adds extra pressure on those who are already struggling.

To make matters even worse, the recent energy crisis has caused household energy bills to skyrocket. According to CitizensAdvice, £20 a week equates to six days of energy costs or three days of food costs for a low-income family.

‘We anticipate that the energy increase in cost may have a bigger impact [than the Universal Credit Cut] and increase demand through the winter months,’ said Oonah.

Although you might think you can’t make a difference, you can!

‘People can help their local foodbanks by volunteering, making food and financial donations, running fundraising activities and encouraging those that are in need to seek support to prevent losing their home and getting into debt,’ added Oonah.



Image Credit: Hounslow Community FoodBox