Warning from Enfield foodbank managers amid cost-of-living crisis

‘Surge’ in demand for help reported as energy bills soar and inflation hits 40-year high, reports James Cracknell

Volunteers at a foodbank
credit Joel Munic via Unsplash

Foodbank managers across the borough are warning that the “massive” cost-of-living crisis is already hitting people hard – with the worst still to come.

UK inflation hit 10.1% this summer – the highest for 40 years – and another big energy price cap rise is due to come in October. As a result, foodbanks in Enfield are already seeing a “surge” in demand as residents struggle to cope with the soaring cost of food, fuel, utility bills and housing.

To better understand how the cost-of-living crisis is affecting people locally, the Dispatch has spoken to local foodbank managers from across the borough.

Gerry Bell manages the weekly foodbank at St Monica’s Church in Palmers Green. He said: “We are seeing a pick-up in numbers for sure. A lot of people are saying they will need the government to help them – I think when the summer holidays end there will be a reality shock.

“We have some people who are having a struggle with their energy company because their direct debits have been put up. My worry is what happens in October. We are telling them to prepare for the worst.”

Tara Hanna is the director of Exodus Youth Worx, which runs a fortnightly food parcel delivery scheme for families, without any need for a referral. During school holidays the charity also runs a food hub at St Anne’s Catholic High School for Girls in Enfield Town. Tara said demand had risen by 35% since the start of the year and added: “We have seen numbers increasing, we are facing a massive crisis. I don’t think we’ve even scraped the surface of how big this problem is going to get.”

Ginnie Landon, from Enfield Women’s Centre in Ponders End, said demand for the charity’s foodbank had risen by around a third since the start of the year. She said: “People are coming because they don’t have enough money to manage. Demand is growing and people have said they can’t pay their bills, they don’t have enough money to live.

“Parents are worrying about their children and how they will buy school uniform or even how they will feed them. I am terrified – I don’t know how we are going to help everyone when our own energy bills are going up as a charity. Unless we can find rich donors we are going to struggle.”

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Rosalind Rutty, from Fore Street Hub, a weekly food pantry run by Edmonton Methodist Church, said: “For now we’re coping but as more customers come in we don’t know how long that will last.”

Enfield Food Alliance is a network of more than 30 local organisations providing food support to residents, working in partnership with Enfield Council to “build capacity, resilience and sustainability into the frontline food response in Enfield”.

The alliance has reported that its members are seeing a “surge in demand” for food support, additional strains on mental health and people’s wellbeing, and limited resources within the voluntary sector to meet the increasing demand for food and general support.

Dionne John, co-ordinator of Enfield Food Alliance, said: “Record high energy bills and food prices have triggered a surge in demand for food support from individuals and families living in low-income households in Enfield.

“The council has recently provided support through the [government’s] household support grant, but the impact on the most marginalised people in Enfield, the ninth-most deprived London borough, is unquestionably going to be hard.”

The UK energy price cap – which sets the maximum gas and electricity companies can charge average-sized households – will rise from an annual bill of £1,971 now to £3,549 in October and is forecast to increase again to £4,266 in January, having only been £1,277 at the start of this year.

The government’s package of financial support for households announced in spring was based on a previous estimate of the energy price cap rising to £2,800. The outgoing prime minister has so far refused to offer any additional government help for UK households, instead deferring the problem to his successor – who is due to take office at 10 Downing Street next week.

Find your nearest foodbank via Enfield Council’s website:

For more information about Enfield Food Alliance:

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