Demand for food has rocketed, now we need to get it to the right people
Help The Hungry: The Felix Project is gearing up for sustained rising demand over the next three years – you can help
When the Help The Hungry appeal was launched to help us feed the vulnerable exactly one month ago, there were many people who thought we could emerge from lockdown after a few weeks and things would more or less return to normal.
No one believes this now. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse do not ride alone. Close behind plague comes famine and we are facing an impending hunger crisis in the wake of Covid-19.
Why am I so sure of this?
In the last two weeks of March, nearly a million people applied for universal credit, 10 times the normal figure. When the government closes its admirable staff furlough scheme, this number will rise dramatically, as many employers dealing with their own crises lay off staff.
If you have a subsistence income, you will struggle to pay your rent, let alone for your food. That much is obvious. And the extraordinary recent rise in unemployment of 6.6 million in a week in the US, where the paycheque protection programme is not as extensive as the UK scheme, indicates what is coming here.
Then there are the elderly people facing a further long period of lockdown when this initial period ends but Covid-19 lingers. For many of these people isolation also means not being able to reach the shops.
In addition nearly half the parents of the 1.6 million children eligible for free school meals have yet to receive any substitute meals at all to keep their children fed at home, as schools stay shut.
No wonder that YouGov recently reported 1.5 million adults saying they cannot obtain enough food for themselves and their families. This number is set to rise sharply as more people lose their income.
Over the past month The Felix Project has seen demand for our food skyrocket. In February we were delivering enough food each day for just over 20,000 meals. Today we will provide for 100,000 meals and that daily number is rising fast.
As is revealed today, just one of the charities we supply, the North Paddington Food Bank, has seen its demand for food surge to more than 600 families a week, whereas just over a month ago it was supporting fewer than 100 families.
I am proud that the response from The Felix Project has been so rapid and effective. But we couldn’t have done this without the generosity of Independent readers – alongside those from the Evening Standard – who have donated money and volunteered to drive our vans and work in our depots.
Now we are preparing for the long haul. We are gearing up for sustained rising demand over the next three years. To do this we need to add much needed capacity to our current London depots. All of us at Felix are committed to meeting what is a formidable challenge.
The good news is that there still seems to be plenty of surplus food in the system. Our job is to get it to the right people.
Justin Byam Shaw is founder of The Felix Project and a shareholder in, and former chairperson of, The Independent