When Covid-19 hit Britain, the nation was put into lockdown, and businesses, livelihoods and the economy suffered greatly. Since then, food banks have seen a dramatic surge in demand – one that photographer Charlie Clift decided to document at his local branch.
As a volunteer at The South London Food Bank Warehouse, Charlie says: "I saw huge amounts of food and essential items coming and going each day, I just couldn't believe how much the warehouse was giving out. When I talked to the people who had been working there longer, they told me of the dramatic rise in demand since the lockdown started – it was shocking."
In April, the facility fed 3,600 people – three times more than usual. "I realised this must also be happening across the nation, so I started documenting it with my camera."
For hundreds of thousands of people, emergency food parcels are the only way they can survive. Anna (not her real name) is a skilled healthcare worker employed by a private company, but a genetic disorder means she is vulnerable and cannot see patients face to face. "I want to work, but I have no prospect of getting a salary until there's a vaccine," she says. Her income all but disappeared overnight when she suddenly found herself on statutory sick pay. She gets just £95.85 each week and cannot cover all her living costs. The food bank has been vital for her. "When I was at a low ebb, the fact that someone had put so much thought into a food parcel touched me, it really and truly did."
Charlie has also spent time photographing The Bonny Downs Food Bank in Newham. He has witnessed local heroes volunteering their time to support their community. "There's a wonderful positive atmosphere in the food banks; everyone is friendly, no-one is judged, it's so welcoming. But when you chat with one of the people receiving food, you discover just how difficult their life is."
If you want to donate and help food banks across the UK, visit the Trussell Trust or leave some items in the drop box at your local supermarket.