The food bank in Tottenham is in crisis and at the time of writing the problem is not solved. To run efficiently food banks need a large central store and several distribution points. Unfortunately the food bank on Laurence road was evicted by a developer from their large store. So the increasing demand is falling on the Somerford Grove Adventure Playground, who don’t have the volunteers, the space, the food or the money to cope.
The Jobcentres are issuing food vouchers which cannot supply food, leading to distressing scenes with people weeping and hungry. Benefit claimants cannot cook, turn the lights on or keep warm when they run out of money. They have utility, rent arrears and other unmanageable debts.
The impact of sanctions, the bedroom tax, the LHA caps and the £500 overall benefit cap is already creating a food crisis in Tottenham. The enforcement of council tax by Haringey Council will make it even worse. The plan is to set up an efficient central food store in Tottenham, where the vast majority of the poorest households are to be found in the Haringey Borough.
Food banks do not end poverty, hunger, or poverty related debt, they only feed people for three days; but we are forced to run them by the government when incomes are cut so low they cannot buy necessities or pay the rent and council tax. Indeed benefit changes or delays account for over 45% of all food bank referrals.
At the heart of growing poverty and inequality is the absence of any coherent policy to provide affordable homes for the past 30 years. The housing benefit bill went sky high because landlords wanted to profit from increasing demand in a market in short supply. Instead of curbing rents the coalition has slashed housing benefit and left claimants to pay rent out of incomes in work and unemployment which are steadily diminishing in value. Without an affordable housing policy food and fuel poverty will increase; so will the cost of poverty related ill-health and educational underachievement to the taxpayer.