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Hundreds turn to food bank amid appeal for donations and volunteers

Demand for help soars as several other lifeline services are closed ahead of second lockdown

06 November, 2020 — By Helen Chapman

A food bank volunteer outside the Ringcross Community Centre in Holloway

A FOOD bank in Holloway has seen a giant spike in people approaching them for help after other services in the borough were forced to close.

The Pilion Trust, which are based at the Ringcross Community Centre in Lough Road, said 160 households had visited them on Friday alone.

The Newington Green Action Group (NGAG) Food Hub in Mildmay closed last month. Islington Food Bank, in Highbury, run by the Trussell Trust, reopened in August after closing in March due to dwindling supplies.

Savvas Panas, who is founder and chief executive of the Pilion Trust, said: “The numbers have shot up. We are seeing a lot of people going to those places who have now found us.

“As other places close down we are getting loads of emails asking if they can come to us.”

He added: “If people need it, they can travel to us from anywhere in the borough. We have had people calling us from all over the borough, even south of the borough.”

The trust are now calling for more volunteers and donations from Islington residents to help deal with the demand.

“People get frightened [of Covid-19] and wonder if they should volunteer,” said Mr Panas.

Savvas Panas

“We need to protect ourselves but we need to help others as well.”

Labour councillor Jenny Kay, who helped set up the NGAG food hub, said they are looking for a permanent venue in Newington Green.

She said: “Over the course of the project more than 400 people received twice-weekly deliveries. The Food Hub closed a month ago when the Mildmay Club reopened.

“There are thousands of people in the area who are unable to afford healthy, nutritious food. We are working with other grassroots organisations to build a food justice programme that centres on marginalised voices. As part of that we are looking for a more permanent venue with a storefront in the Newington Green area.”

Meanwhile, the Arc food bank, in Prebend Street, has supported more than 500 people with food parcels since it opened in April – 97 per cent of those had never needed to visit a food bank prior to the lockdown enforced in March.

The council say residents can call the We Are Islington helpline for help with everything from getting food and medicine. They have also been working with Arsenal in the Community and the Felix Project to help deliver food parcels during the virus crisis.

Town Hall Cabinet councillor Una O’Halloran said: “Access to food and basic necessities had been a major concern even before the coronavirus pandemic, which has only exacerbated the situation. Since the start of the pandemic, the council and community partners have been working tirelessly to ensure that food and vital supplies can be provided to those that need it most.”

She added: “This has been and continues to be an extremely challenging time for people across our borough, and I would like to thank each and every volunteer and organisation that has selflessly stepped forward to help those most in need.”

Arc food bank is now planning a revamp after receiving a £1,000 donation from building supply firm Leyland SDM’s Give London a Lift campaign.

Damien Brown, of Arc food bank, said: “This is a tremendous boost for us and means we’ll be able to spruce up the food bank considerably and make it a much more welcoming place for our beneficiaries to visit.”

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