Nann du Sautoy talks emergency bags of food.
“In an ideal world foodbanks shouldn’t exist,” says Nann du Sautoy who has lived in Highbury New Park for the past 20 years. Nann, now retired, volunteers at Islington’s only Trussell Trust foodbank, which is based in a shipping container at Highbury Roundhouse. It opens on Monday and Saturday afternoons to give out emergency bags of food and is increasingly busy. In March 2017 the foodbank gave out 4.5 tonnes of food.
“There are many reasons to use a foodbank,” explains Nann. “Everyone’s story is different but it is usually a time of emergency, and clients don’t have anything to fall back on. For example they might have had to pay a train fare to see a sick relative. It may only be a few pounds but it can put people into a domino effect of debt. This, combined with benefit changes and benefit delays as people are reassessed, and possibly sanctioned, means that people can be left without reserves for months at a time. We often see people at the Islington Foodbank who have not had money for 12-16 weeks.”
“We can only give out up to 12 vouchers a year for a client in an emergency situation. It used to be three, then six and is now double that. We don’t want people to feel they can rely on us,” explains Nann. “We offer enough food for three-four days for an emergency or stop gap. They contain nutrition and some treats.”
All foodbank clients are referred by another organisation – in Islington this will be groups like the Housing Associations, Jobcentres, Pilion Trust, and even Age UK Islington. The referral system means that anyone who gets to a foodbank doesn’t have to explain themselves. “We’re just friendly faces offering a hot drink and a biscuit. If people need a chance to get a load off their mind they can. We don’t assess people’s needs,” says Nann.
The tragedy is that an increasing number of people need help. Last year (2016-17) 3,263 adults and 1,189 children used Islington Foodbank – a huge leap from 2015-16 when 2, 773 people came to the foodbank.
Many people find their first visit to a foodbank tough. “Some people are tearful, and a lot are ashamed. It’s a big, big thing to need food and no one wants to be in that position. When people come again it’s different. They know we are completely non-judgmental,” explains Nann.
What’s clear is that foodbanks have become a lifesaver. It is terrible that so many people need to use them, but as they do, anyone lucky enough to be able to afford to eat what they like is always welcome to give Islington Foodbank a boost.
There a number of ways that you can support Islington Foodbank:
You can donate food (bought at any shop) in the collection box at the big Waitrose on Holloway Road (near Nag’s Head). It needs to be in date, non-perishable and unopened.
Join a supermarket drive one Saturday a month, usually at Waitrose or Morrison on Holloway Road
(8 July, 5 August 10am-1pm and 1-4pm). Check dates on website and email before turning up. firstname.lastname@example.org
Volunteer to pack food into bags or give food bags to clients. See how at www.islington.foodbank.org.uk/locations