Eric Samuel MBE, CEO of Community Food Enterprise, says Barking and Dagenham is rife with areas where affordable healthy food is scarce or difficult to access.
It is? News to those of us who grew up there and still have occasion to visit or pass through!
He said: “Barking and Dagenham is by far the worst. If you look around the Thames View Estate in Barking you will see there are no shops and yet there are so many people living there. ”
Ah, yes. Thames View. I know it well. As the ‘Hidden London’ website puts it, a place of “…soulless architecture and a pervading air of dilapidation, this is east London at its most depressing.”
They aren’t wrong. But… a ‘food desert’?
“If someone has to travel far they are limited to what they can bring home, which increases food poverty. Without a balanced, healthy diet it leads to malnutrition.”
Let’s put this into perspective, shall we?
The denizens of Thames View don’t face a dangerous trek across the Kalahari or frozen tundra for sustenance. Just a short drive or bus ride to the east is a huge Asda at Merrielands Crescent, which is 5 mins by car, 35 mins by bus or can even be walked almost as quickly. There’ll be a new one built to the west at Barking itself shortly.
I suspect there aren’t many cases of scurvy or kwashiorkor in Thames View, nor rickets (though that is making a comeback, albeit for different reasons).
So, what does this organisation do, exactly?
Community Food Enterprises runs a mobile food store that visits the Barking estate once a week giving residents access to healthy foods at affordable prices.
It has worked in the borough since 2006 visiting all the children’s centre, but cuts in funding have reduced its service in the last year.
Ah. Right. Back to the ‘Hidden London’ website again:
“Thames View has been the subject of a Sure Start initiative aiming to promote the physical, intellectual and social development of babies and young children. Its organisers commented, “The estate itself is isolated, the community fragmented, with little access to communal facilities. Services are basic, educational attainment poor, life chances limited.”…”
It seems the inhabitants of Thames View are a rather hopeless lot, so much so they require their food brought to them or else they will starve.
And Eric is keen to oblige! Why not? It’s a living, after all, for an ‘ex banker’…
One wonders if perhaps Eric has any qualms about strengthening the dependency culture by providing this ‘service’. He’s probably never read any Dalrymple though, has he?
The organisation is one of many that contributed to a new report released last week which warns thousands of Londoners are at risk of food poverty.
Well, of course they did! Far be it for anyone to think they maybe aren’t needed….
The report by the London Assembly health and environment committee calls for a food poverty to be prioritised to achieve what it calls a ‘zero hunger city’.
A city where no-one ever goes hungry? Great news! Errr….how is this to be achieved?
Its recommendations include provision of free breakfast clubs in schools, reinventing community meals and for councils to lead a food poverty action plan.
Ah, yes. The proverbial ‘free’ breakfast (who’s really paying?), more useless ‘action plans’ which will only serve to alleviate hunger in those attending the conference (“Another canapé, Eric?” “Mmmm, don’t mind if I do!”) and…well, and whatever ‘community meals’ really means. Who knows?
Mr Samuel fears the situation here could easily escalate.
“It is going to get worse with government funding getting cut back,” he said.
Perhaps the inhabitants of Thames View will have to hunt their food, or scavenge for roadkill on the A13?