Croydon’s growing problem that is being swept under the rug

By - Tuesday 21st January, 2014

Aishah Mehmood delves into the growing number of people who can’t afford to feed themselves

Image taken by Salvation Army USA West and used under Creative Commons license.

Regardless of how much we can afford, every one of us needs food. Where we get our food from can vary, from supermarkets to discount shops like the 99p store or Poundland. But how would you feel if you witnessed a citizen using another form of means to find food: what about a rubbish bin on the busy streets of Croydon? I’ve sadly witnessed it and it was a great shock to see an individual rummaging through bins in the hope to find something to eat. And I’m certain I am not the only one who has witnessed a scene like this before. It comes as no surprise to us that the recession is still adding salt to our financial wounds.

It’s scenes like these that highlight some of the issues that we might not be aware of: namely whether some families have enough food to eat. Last year in February a report was published which stated that twenty percent of young people were living in poverty within the Croydon borough. As a result it would be surprising if many families were not so fortunate to have the idealised Christmas turkey with all the trimmings this year. And with the whole hedonistic approach towards Christmas from the stores, with all the inescapable advertisements, this undoubtedly put extra financial pressure on many families where money was already tight to begin with.

There have been many helpful initiatives aiming to alleviate the issue of food for citizens within our community, one of which is Croydon Nightwatch. The charity has been caring for the homeless within Croydon since 1976. Their soup kitchen serves food and hot drink every night of the year at Queens Gardens from 9:30pm to 10:00pm. Chairman for Croydon Nightwatch, Jad Adams stated that the figures for the past four years for people out on Sunday night at the Nightwatch soup run have doubled in the last three years, from 43 people in 2010 to over 80 in 2013.

It’s shocking how some do not have enough food to eat, and we can sometimes take what we have for granted

Increasing figures like these raise awareness to the fact that the issue of the availability of food has worsened and it leaves us to question the numbers for 2014. More importantly, it’s also not just homeless people who are using these resources for food, but also people who have homes. There can be many factors to why people living within homes may be in need of food. For starters, it could be caused by an increase of certain living expenses, such as rent, inflation in energy prices and travel costs (this year a 2.8 per cent increase in rail fares means some commuters would be paying more than £5,000 a year). After all these necessary expenditures are made, there is sadly not much money left.

Another helpful resource which is making a positive impact within the community is the Croydon Foodbank. Since opening in July last year it has provided 267 families with food parcels, to which only 11 were homeless. The remaining were families who have low incomes or are on benefits. This makes us realise that it is not just homeless people who are in need of food. In addition to this Carmen, the administrator at Croydon Foodbank, said: “Clients referred to us are issued vouchers from numerous voucher partners and organisations; local benefit offices, social services, etc.”

The Foodbank is open on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays between the time of 12pm and 2pm every day. They also accept donations from the general public, and during the run up to Christmas last year they received over 800kgs of various donations from donors and businesses within the community. They can be contacted at 020 8686 5664.

There are many places all over Croydon which serve the community and provide food for those who are most in need. In addition to the organisations mentioned above The Salvation Army provides lunch on Mondays whilst also giving housing advice and medical attention. Local churches such as Croydon Minster, Croydon Tabernacle and Church of God (Seventh Day) provide tea, coffee and light refreshments and St Mildred’s Church provides food, showers, haircuts, clothing and social interaction. The Muslim Association of Croydon provide hot meals in their forecourt on Fridays.

I believe in order to try and bring a change to the town, we must try to help its people. It’s shocking how some do not have enough food to eat, and we can sometimes take what we have for granted. I believe it’s important for the citizens of Croydon to raise awareness of this issue, to help and advise others who may be in need of help, because it’s not until others help that we can hope for a more effective difference to be made within Croydon.

Aishah Mehmood

Aishah Mehmood

Aishah is a lifelong resident of Croydon. With a background in inter-faith relations and Abrahamic Religions, she blogs, writes and tweets for peace, highlighting issues in South London through the Croydon Peace Project. Originally started in the summer of 2012, in the wake of the Croydon Riots, the project aimed to inform local citizens of World Peace Day. The project invited the local community to have their messages of hope, love and peace on trees hung on trees in the local area. Initially the idea received large amounts of support from the Croydon Labour Party, who helped on a non-party political basis. Currently the project is active on Facebook and Twitter supporting the call for peace and informing the local community.

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  • Jonny Rose

    Check out this brilliant tech solution which is being used in the US to solve hunger issues in cities. Would love to get a Mogl equivalent up and running in Croydon :)

  • Terry Coleman

    My hat is raised to the wonderful people who help out in this way. And thoughts are with those less fortunate than myself.

    Serious thought must surely be given as to how wealth and wellbeing is best distributed throughout society.