Charles and Camilla at Wandsworth Foodbank. Image: Trussell Trust
Prince Charles and Camilla have visited a south London food bank, taking a look at the emergency food parcels being handed out to people in need over Christmas.
The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall were at the Wandsworth Foodbank, which is supported by the Trussell Trust, at St Mark’s Church to meet volunteers and sign a certificate commending the team’s work.
As they arrived, the royals spoke with volunteers and discovered how the food bank helps those in need across south-west London.
Dan Frith, the manager of the food bank, told The Big Issue the visit was welcome encouragement for volunteers.
“I’m really pleased it could happen. It’s an opportunity to shine a light on the poverty and destitution so many are sadly facing in London and right across the UK,” he said.
Only a handful of volunteers in the church knew the identity of the visitors beforehand.
Frith added that demand for the food bank’s services have soared during the pandemic. The food bank was 15 per cent busier in October 2021 than October 2020, and 75 per cent busier than in October 2019.
Shockingly, four in 10 parcels the food bank delivers are for children.
“It’s sadly very busy. We really want to see an end to the need for food banks. We want to see better policy, a social security system that will really protect us all,” Frith said.
Charles even got chatting about pizzas with the founders of Love Triangle, a Balham pizza joint that donates a meal to the food bank for every pizza sold. Co-founder Ben Mason said they had so far donated some 50,000 meals.
Passing a trolley of Duchy Originals products being donated to the food bank, the Prince of Wales stopped to inspect some of his high-end own-brand olive oil.
The royal guests also spoke with two families who have used the food bank and learned more about their circumstances.
As the visit grew to a close, Charles wished the volunteers in the church a happy Christmas.
Emma Revie, CEO of the Trussell Trust, said the visit was “really special”, and a chance to emphasise the importance of food banks.
“It was an opportunity to not just see the operation, and how we distribute emergency food, but to talk about the issues that drive people to food banks, the advice and support that is also offered at food banks, and then to hear from people who have had to access food bank services in the past,” Revie said.
The royal visitors were not only a boost to morale during a difficult winter, said Revie, but to the food bank’s profile.
“We couldn’t do what we do without the support of the general public. People are facing impossible decisions this Christmas, choosing between heating their homes and feeding their children. That’s not right,” she said.
The food bank was started by members of the church’s congregation in 2013 after seeing growing need in the community.
Almost half of the food parcels provided by the Wandsworth Foodbank are given to children.
In the last six months, Trussell Trust food banks have given out over 5,100 food parcels a day. In the last year, the charity has handed out 2.5 million food parcels.
During the pandemic, demand for food banks has increased. Volunteers at Wandsworth Foodbank noticed a 78 per cent increase in the amount of parcels they were delivering.
Nadini Bell, a volunteer at the food bank, said there were a few moments of nerves before the visit.
“We were all a bit nervous about it, but they were so lovely. So easy to talk to – they were so interested in what we do,” she said.
Bell says the food bank offers hope and human connection to people struggling to navigate the system.
“There is such huge need. It’s offering hope to people, that’s the main thing. I’ve spoken to so many people who’ve said not having money and not having a voice is so dehumanizing,” Bell told The Big Issue.
“When they come and talk to us and receive food, kindness, the chats – it’s almost like restoring hope and faith in humanity, and that they are people.”
The food bank was only able to re-open its welcome centres in September 2021. The centres offer support to people using the food bank, as well as parcels of food.