Job losses due to coronavirus outbreak might mean more people needing help
Daphine Aikens. Picture: Hammersmith and Fulham Council
The founder of Hammersmith and Fulham Foodbank says more people than ever might need her charity’s help if people lose their jobs during the coronavirus outbreak.
Daphine Aikens, 52, also praised the generosity of a huge number of people who have offered to volunteer and donate since the COVID-19 crisis began.
Last year, some 120,000 meals were given out to feed 12,000 people in the borough from its three branches in Fulham, West Kensington and White City. But she fears that donations could dry up if people have trouble feeding themselves, and that bulk buying supplies might get harder.
“There’s a risk that the normal number of donations could drop, and that we won’t be able to bulk buy from supermarkets,” said Ms Aikens, who lives in Wandsworth.
“We purchase about five per cent of our stock each year with a budget of £4,000 to £5,000 to top up our donations.
“Today we’re going to do a trial run of ordering from supermarkets online. Although we have heard from other foodbanks that they are struggling to order more than a few items.”
Thinking about what might happen in the months ahead, she said: “We just don’t know what’s going to happen, but if shops, bars and restaurants close and more people become unemployed, we could see an increase in people needing foodbanks. We’re preparing for the worst and I don’t know what to expect.”
Demand on her foodbank, part of the Trussell Trust charity had already doubled in two years. Ms Aiken said her foodbank fed 6,000 men, women and children in 2016-17. In 2018-19 it was 12,000.
She said people who switch to the Universal Credit benefits system are particularly vulnerable due to the five-week wait that claimants experience before getting their first payment.
However, the foodbank is not short of people getting in touch and offering to volunteer.
“I would like to say I’m very grateful for people’s donations,” added Ms Aikens, who founded the foodbank 10 years ago.
“We’re getting a huge number of people calling and offering to volunteer. People are being very generous, but it might slow down if people find it harder to feed themselves.
“We currently have about 60 volunteers, though a proportion of them are older people who may not be able to help.
“Anyone who wants to volunteer, we would ask them to go on the council’s website as they are coordinating the volunteering efforts.”
Ms Aiken also feels confident that a full lockdown on London would not prevent them from doing their work, as foodbanks are deemed “essential” by Hammersmith and Fulham Council.
“We all want to help in a crisis and we will do our best. Watch this space, we will react as necessary.”
Visit Hammersmith & Fulham Foodbank’s website for details of the most urgently needed food items:
To find out how you can volunteer with different organisations in the borough, visit the council’s website.
Owen Sheppard - Local Democracy Reporter
March 19, 2020