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Polling stations doubling up as food banks ‘the new normal’ amid cost of living crisis

Reliance on food banks has become ‘the new normal’ amid a cost of living crisis (Picture: @healthandthings; @charlottemwhite; @williambroome)

Dogs at polling stations have captured the hearts of the nation for some time now during elections.

But another trend has emerged this year – and it’s not as pleasant.

People have been sharing photos of polling stations doubling up as food banks as they head to the ballot box today.

The images have been branded a grim sign of the times as Britain grapples with a cost of living crisis.

One image shows a poster with two arrows pointing people to a polling station on the left and a food bank on the right.

The photo left people reeling, with one person on Twitter saying: ‘If that’s not a sign that things are very wrong in this country, I don’t know what is’

@healthandthingsSign at a Camden polling station this morning

The photo sparked outrage on social media (Picture: @healthandthingsSign)

Queen’s Crescent Community Association (QCCA), which runs the food bank every Thursday in Camden, north London, said need is growing ‘every week’.

CEO Foyezur Miah told ‘This is the new norm. We are living in a community where people are struggling to afford some of the most basic things like food because they have to pay their rent and their utility bills, which are increasing.

‘These are the choices people are having to make, and community groups are having to step in to provide extra help.’

QCCA started life as an Irish drinking club in the 60s – evolving into a charity in 2002 as welfare needs of the community increased.

Chelsea and Fulham @williambroome Polling station sign above the sign for a food bank.  In your constituency @GregHands not that you care, you?ve got your subsidized restaurant to stuff your face in I?ve voted, and not for your dreadful party #EndOurCladdingScandal

Another food bank was housed in a polling station in Chelsea and Fulham (Picture: @williambroome)

But it was only in March 2020 that it set up a food bank, to help vulnerable people struggling to access food during the lockdown.

The charity planned to wind down this offer when all Covid restrictions ended in July last year – but by then, demand had increased too much.

Mr Miah said: ‘We had planned to wind it down with the roadmap out of lockdown as we needed the space for the charity’s other activities, but demand was too high.

‘(After Covid) we walked into the fuel crisis, the utility crisis, the impact of Brexit and the impact of the war in Ukraine. This has pushed people from poverty to destitution. That’s what we are dealing with, but there’s no strategy.’

The CEO said that, whatever the outcome of tomorrow’s local elections, the government needed to provide more funding to the charity sector as local community groups increasingly step up to fill gaps in state support.

A polling station in Earlsfield, where people in need can also access free food (Picture: @charlottemwhite)

He said: ‘The government needs to look at the problem on the ground and come and speak to people and understand how they are struggling. Many can’t provide for their children.

‘The Gospel Oak ward is one of the most deprived in the country, there are pockets of deprivation everywhere and huge inequality gaps.

‘This needs to be faced or it will exacerbate the pressure on the NHS as people fall into critical need and develop mental health problems. People will stay trapped in the benefits system, so it will cost the tax payer more if they are not supported.’

Several other people also shared photos of polling stations doubling up as food banks as they headed to the polls today.

That includes Charlotte White, who previously told how a 14-year-old boy was rushed to hospital after ‘fainting from hunger’ while queuing at a food bank she manages in Earlsfield, south west London.

Incomes across the country are being squeezed by inflation, rising taxes, the soaring cost of energy and a spike in food prices.

However, ministers have rebuffed the prospect of a windfall tax on oil and gas companies, saying the government wanted to encourage energy companies to invest to bring down costs.

Earlier this week, Boris Johnson admitted that the government has not done enough to alleviate the pain of the cost of living crisis.

He made the admission in a car crash interview that saw him gloat about introducing free buses when confronted about a pensioner who was riding them all day to keep warm.

A member of his cabinet came under a fire a day later when he suggested people could save on costs by buying value food.

Labor has urged voters to send a message to the Conservatives in Westminster as voters head to the polls to pick new local leaders today.

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While local elections allow people to decide who runs services in their area, the results are also a better test of how party leaders are faring nationally.

However, the prime minister has insisted he is fit to lead.

In Southampton last night, Mr Johnson told reporters he was ‘absolutely confident that we have the right agenda for the country’.

‘I have a big mandate to deliver,’ he said.

Asked if he would still be there at the next election, due to be held in 2024 at the latest, Mr Johnson said: ‘Of course. And I’m also very confident we will succeed at the next election.’

*You can donate towards the Queen’s Crescent Association food bank here.

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