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I, Daniel Blake actor returns to front appeal for foodbank used in film

Ken Loach’s powerful depiction of poverty and the trials of navigating the welfare system struck a chord. Now, actor Dave Johns is helping Newcastle’s West End Foodbank as they battle to keep people fed

I, Daniel Blake was a harrowing exploration of austerity Britain. Now the star of the BAFTA-winning film is fronting an appeal to help the foodbank featured in the film.

Stand-up comic Dave Johns, who played the eponymous Daniel in Ken Loach’s 2016 film and featured on the cover of The Big Issue at the time, said the scenes he filmed at Newcastle’s West End Foodbank “had an impact on millions”.

The north-east England foodbank is the busiest in the UK under normal circumstances and with the current Covid-19 lockdown leaving more people struggling, the foodbank is appealing for donations.

In the video posted online, Johns said: “You know when I filmed that scene in I, Daniel Blake in the West End Foodbank, I didn’t know what an impact it was going to have on millions of people. In this time of crisis we need community more than ever. There are many people out there struggling but there are also many people out there helping.”

Even before the UK was put on lockdown last month, the foodbank had been preparing for increased need. Big Issue Changemakers NUFC Fans Foodbank have not been able to carry out their matchday collections after Newcastle United home games were postponed.

And the foodbank’s chief executive John McCorry told The Big Issue back in March that they were preparing for a drop in donations.

“We are heavily reliant on donations from the general public so if there is a bit of panic out there and it is creating shortages of food it suggests that people will be thinking of their own situation first and others separately and that might impact on donations we receive,” said McCorry. “And food supplies might reach a low level and we are starting to think about how to manage that and source that food.”

This week – the end of what would have been school Easter holidays – the Food Foundation released their preliminary report into food insecurity, warning that the number of adults struggling to stay fed has quadrupled under the lockdown.

They said that the lack of food in shops alone explains about 40 per cent of food insecurity experiences and adults with disabilities and those with children were particularly vulnerable.

Income losses have played their part too – with anyone who has losses of more than 25 per cent of their income at significantly heightened risk of food insecurity, according to the foundation.

That is being felt all over the country, not just in the north-east of England.

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In London, the Mayor’s Fund for London would normally be helping families with holiday hunger – the cost of covering an extra meal for kids while they are on holidays from school and not receiving free school meals.

The charity has instead put out a warning that 200,000 young Londoners are at risk of hunger as they are not eligible for the Government’s food voucher scheme. According to Greater London Authority figures, there are 400,000 children under 16 living in food insecurity yet 196,000 kids are eligible for the new food vouchers.

Also stressing that the true number could be higher, the Mayor’s Fund for London have, too, launched an emergency fundraising appeal to help community groups and youth clubs in their network to distribute ‘happiness hampers’, food parcels and cooked food.

Kirsty McHugh, chief executive of the Mayor’s Fund for London, said: ‘Our network of community groups is pulling out the stops to distribute food to children and families, often in dire need. The Government voucher scheme is welcome, but has been slow to get off the ground, and many young people simply won’t qualify for the support. We desperately need to raise money and gain other support to help them reach the young people in their communities.’’