How it happens6:58Why this London plaque stayed open during the Queen’s funeral
Michelle Dornelly says she didn’t want to keep hungry people in her community waiting all weekend to get much-needed groceries.
Dornelly is CEO and Founder of Children with Voices and the Hackney Community Food Hub, a mobile London food bank operating from multiple community spaces. The hub remained open on Monday despite a national holiday for the Queen’s funeral.
“It’s extremely sad, you know, and our thoughts are with the Queen and her family and… others who also lost loved ones this month,” Dornelly told As It Happens host Nil Koksal.
“But the Queen has supported what we have done … so I know she would be delighted that we continue to feed the weak, needy and underprivileged today. So for me it was something we just had to do.”
Many boards close for holidays
A number of food banks across the UK closed their doors on Monday to celebrate the bank holiday – a decision that has drawn criticism from some residents in the country, which is facing a cost of living crisis.
Dornelly said the Hackney Community Food Hub had about half its usual number of customers on Monday because people were largely expecting it to be closed.
But those who used the service, she says, were very grateful.
“We made a delivery today and one of our volunteers got feedback from a really nice…gentleman who was so happy with the food said.
“It was incredible. That’s why we’re doing it.”
Seen from Cambridge Gate, the procession following Queen Elizabeth’s coffin aboard the state hearse travels up the Long Walk in Windsor on Monday and makes its final journey to Windsor Castle following the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II. (Carl Recine/AFP/Getty Images)
The Queen’s funeral paralyzed large parts of the country on Monday. The students took the day off from school. A number of hospital appointments and funerals have been postponed. And many private businesses, including supermarkets, closed.
The closure of food banks in particular drew mixed reactions from Britons online. Some defended volunteers who want to take a day off to mourn the Queen. Others have criticized the closure of essential services at a time when many are struggling to make ends meet.
Energy bills for the average UK household have doubled since spring. Grocery costs are also increasing. Milk prices are up more than 33 percent year-on-year, while fruit juices and canned vegetables are up more than 15 percent.
Dornelly says people who used the food bank’s services on Monday were extremely grateful it was open. (Submitted by Michelle Dornelly)
The Hackney Community Food Hub only operates Monday through Thursday, and Dornelly says she didn’t want to keep people waiting the long weekend to stock up.
She is critical of the decision to discontinue so many services. With schools closed, struggling families have extra mouths to feed, she said. Many parents are being forced to lose a day at work or seek childcare services, she added.
Additionally, she worries about the food waste that comes with closed food banks and grocery stores.
“We respect and, you know, people honor the Queen and it’s sad that she passed. But… I don’t think they thought that through in any way,” she said.
“Society becomes dependent”
Trussell Trust, a not-for-profit organization that supports a nationwide network of food banks in the UK, says it doesn’t know how many of its members are closed on Mondays, but noted that it’s “usual for them to be closed on bank holidays when The majority of referral organizations are also closed.”
The organization says each food bank has made its own decision about whether to close.
“Unfortunately, the pandemic and cost of living crisis have resulted in an increased need for food banks as more people struggle to afford essentials like groceries. The response to the possibility that food banks could be closed on bank holidays shows that society is becoming dependent on charitable, volunteer-run organizations to help people survive and that is not right,” Trussell Trust said in an emailed statement attributed to its chief executive Emma Revie.
“Food banks were established to provide short-term help to people in need, they are not a permanent solution to hunger and poverty, and they should not have to exist.”
Revie says the only way to end hunger in Britain “is for the government to make a long-term commitment to helping those on the lowest income brackets and putting in place a social security system that ensures everyone can afford basic necessities like food .”
Dornelly urged people to be more generous during these dire times.
“Volunteers need more support, more mental health support. We need money. Volunteers volunteer, but they also have bills to pay. They also struggle with the cost of living,” she said.
“There are deprivations everywhere. And I just wish people would just open their eyes and be a little more compassionate.”