Foodbanks and Buses: what’s the link?

Fourteen London foodbanks are asking London mayoral candidates to support a scheme that provides people visiting the foodbank with three free bus vouchers. Why?

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Imagine you’re a mum living in the capital, juggling a new job with two young children.  For the last few weeks your husband hasn’t been given many hours by the company he works for, and it’s going to be a couple of weeks until you’re paid. While you’re waiting for that first pay packet, your husband’s limited hours alone just won’t cover the cost of bringing up a young family.

Something’s got to give.

You started by skipping meals so you could feed your kids, but when there isn’t enough money left to do even that, the local GP decides to refer your family to the nearest foodbank.

Drinking tea and talking to the volunteers at the foodbank instantly puts you at ease, and you can’t believe that other local people have been so generous in donating the food you’re offered. But you’ve got a pushchair for your youngest and the oldest needs to hold your hand when you walk the two miles home along busy roads; how are you going to carry all this food back?

There isn’t any money for food – there certainly isn’t any money for the bus home.

Carol, who runs Lewisham Foodbank, knows the difference it could make:

“We’ve had people walk two or three miles to the foodbank.

Nearly every day we’re walking with people from the foodbank to the local shop and topping up their oyster cards £1.50 so they can make that journey home on the bus.

It doesn’t sound like a lot, but it makes such a difference. I think that’s the key thing, it’s a pretty small change that could have a really big impact on people when they’re at the point of crisis.”

In 2015-16, 110,000 three day emergency food supplies were provided to people in London by Trussell Trust foodbanks, a 5% increase on the previous year.

Everyone who received this emergency food lives in a city with the highest transport costs in the world.

That’s why 14 Trussell Trust foodbanks in London have asked mayoral candidates to support a scheme that provides three free bus vouchers to people referred to a foodbank in a given month, to help them get home with their bags of food. These foodbanks want to make sure people referred to foodbanks, especially when people who are sick or with a disability, can get food and other help they need without a journey they can’t afford adding to the stress and pressure.

Dan from Wandsworth foodbank explains,

“We would encourage the new Mayor of London to engage with the issues facing Londoners at foodbanks, and consider what they with TFL could do to help with bus tickets.”

We know it works – we’ve seen it happen in other parts of the UK. In Stoke-on-Trent, Worcester, Malvern Hills, Pershore and Droitwich Spa foodbanks in our network are already involved in schemes with bus operator First Group’s First Potteries and First Worcester, who provide free bus journey tickets to volunteers and people referred to the foodbank.

As Dorothea, project manager at Camden Foodbank says,

“Every bus fare means fewer essentials for her children and herself, for an older person struggling to keep warm on a tiny pension.

London Bus vouchers, even just three, would make a huge difference and should be a speedy priority for our next mayor”.

Read the letter in full here.