By James Greetham, Managing Director & Founder, Sprung Collective
After a decade of austerity and 12 months of the pandemic and economic slowdown, the numbers of food banks and food bank users in the UK is continuing to rise. Those users even include working families who are desperately trying to make ends meet.
In a recent damning statistic, there were more food banks in the UK than outlets of the fast-food chain McDonald’s. There are at least 2,000 food banks and around 1,300 McDonald’s branches across the UK.
Food charity Sustain UK says 8.4 million people in the UK live in food poverty and that aid has increased sharply during the pandemic. The Trussell Trust, the UK’s biggest foodbank network, gave out nearly 50% more food parcels in the first half of 2020 as compared with the same period a year earlier. Just because the UK has started creeping back to some level of normality, it doesn’t mean the great work Food Banks have been doing over the last 12 months is by any means over! In fact, this is the time when people will be needing it most as furlough ends and unemployment increases the demand gets greater.
With the decline in media attention given to the fantastic fundraisers, food banks and charities, and with volunteers unable to offer their precious time to now support due to work commitments, the philanthropic generosity seen over the last 12 months is rapidly slowing and having a dramatic effect on those who need it most.
Over the last 12 months, I’ve witnessed first-hand the sheer demand for food banks and the importance they have to the people who need them most. With the amazing help from friends and colleagues, from our wonderful hospitality industry, we’ve dedicated our spare time to support a fabulous local food charity called Tooting Community Kitchen with resources, skills and the determination to help our guests as much as we can. TCK is a no questions asked volunteer-driven charity supporting the venerable and needy in the local area with food. Throughout this pandemic, come rain or shine (and sometimes snow), set up a food stand in the centre of Tooting twice a week to hand out free basic food and supplies to around 150 people and families who needed it most. It’s not surprising that we saw numbers increase dramatically over lockdown but what’s more disturbing is the fact that although the UK is seemingly getting back to some sense of normality, our numbers are rising at an alarming rate and showing no sign of letting up.
Throughout lockdown, the wonderful Hospitality Industry was by far the most significant contributor in supporting the venerable through some great food initiatives, a true testament to the industry’s passion and determination even when faced with its own challenges. It was a “we are all in it together” approach with unexpected collaborations across so many.
As we all start to reopen and we re-emerge from this madness, we should all be aware that now is not the time to stop these initiatives. However small, we all need to continue our kindness and generosity and do our very best to give back to those who need it most for a little longer, and no one does it better than the Hospitality Industry!
James Greetham, Managing Director & Founder Sprung Collective