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A London food bank that has hundreds of desperate families queuing daily for rations was temporarily left to fend for itself after the local council stopped providing supplies.
The Dad’s House food bank in Elephant and Castle, south London, says it has given out 32,000 meals since it began operating at the start of April - but Southwark Council pulled its support last week because it was helping vulnerable people who had not been referred directly by the local authority.
However, after an intervention by HuffPost UK, the council said there had been a “misunderstanding” and that it would restart deliveries “as soon as possible”.
Managers say the food bank has seen a massive surge in households needing help as a result of people locally being laid off from their jobs during the coronavirus outbreak.
William McGranaghan, who set up the charity in 2008, said five weeks ago the food bank was attracted a queue of 20 people, but that has now reached 600 and families are standing in line for hours.
The families are largely drawn from the South American community based in the area. Many are single parents who are now struggling to feed their children because they have no access to state benefits.
McGranaghan had posted a video on social media showing a snaking queue at the food bank which has now had more than 200,000 views.
After the U-turn, McGranaghan told HuffPost UK: “I’m over the moon by the decision.
“Just today we’ve had 500 people queuing, and the situation is going to get worse before it gets better - especially with the furlough scheme ending.
“We can do more working together with the council than without them.”
McGranaghan explained many of the people relying on the food bank were working as nannies and cleaners who had lost their jobs rather than be furloughed.
The council had been the “backbone” of its supply, providing two half van loads a week, and volunteers were having to buy food to give out to people themselves as donations dried up.
He sai: “It’s soul-destroying when you see the desperation in people’s eyes.”
Councillor Kieron Williams, Southwark Council’s cabinet member for housing, said: “We’ve made it an absolute priority throughout this pandemic to protect our most vulnerable residents.
“We’re providing food and support to over 13,000 people, delivered in partnership with a wide range of community groups. As part of this work we’ve agreed a package of funding for our network of local food banks, including for Dad’s House so they can support more people than they could with the limited food parcels we were initially able to provide them.
“What’s clear is this crisis has shown just how precarious the lives of millions in our country are. Charities like Dad’s House are providing a lifeline, but we all need to ask what’s gone so wrong with our national social security safety net that thousands have been left unable to afford food”
Last month, Emma Revie, chief executive of the Trussell Trust charity, told the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs committee of MPs that Covid-19 had an “instantaneous and profound” impact on the number of people using foodbanks.
Revie said: “We analysed the last two weeks of March, compared to the same time last year and we identified that there was an 81% increase in demand and quite alarmingly a 122% increase in the number of children receiving food.
“What this told us was the number of families with children that were coming to us had doubled from its normal levels, so we’re definitely seeing a disproportionately high number of children.”
MPs were also told how consumer stockpiling in March led to a “dramatic drop” in supplies going to foodbanks.
Lindsay Boswell, CEO of FareShare, a charity aimed at relieving food poverty, said: “Initially with the dramatic increase in consumer demand and clearing of shelves and stocking that went on, our supply chain was cut off at the knees.
“The supermarkets, although they reacted incredibly quickly, had to divert all their attention and focus into just trying to find whatever supply they could.
“We have about 7,500 charities that collect food from the back of supermarket stores on a daily basis, as well as the other 5,500 that are supplied through a wholesale model and we saw a dramatic drop.”