Published: 10th June, 2011
by DAN CARRIER
A FREE food service run by Hare Krishnas which provides hot meals for the borough’s most needy has been told it is not wanted.
On the day the Labour Town Hall’s much-heralded report into inequality in the borough was unveiled with much fanfare the well-meaning Hare Krishna Food For All charity were told to “get out of town”.
Although one of the report’s key recommendations is to involve more volunteer charity groups, Labour councillor Paul Convery said: “They are not needed here and can be a nuisance to local residents and businesses.”
Food For All’s grants from London councils have been slashed 100 per cent: from £29,000 a year to nothing.
At the same time, it says it is battling against parking warden patrols from Islington, Camden and Westminster councils which are forcing them off their usual stopping points. Food For All’s vans are handed parking fines even if they have pulled up in a quiet spot and are not causing any obstructions.
The charity’s director Peter O’Grady, who has worked on the free food run since the mid-1980s, said the daily service, which visits York Way, is needed more than ever because of the recession. Notably, there has been a rise of students queuing up for the service.
“The people we feed include pensioners, migrant workers who find themselves destitute, and plenty of ex-servicemen,” said Mr O’Grady. “We see a lot of Iraq War veterans who rely on us for a daily meal.
“Traffic wardens were sent to York Way to issue us with tickets. They would be waiting for us so we decided to move across the road to the Islington side.”
But taking up a position in Railway Road across the border has not helped either, insisted Mr O’Grady.
“Islington have sent down two council workers and traffic wardens too,” he said.
The service has until August to cover grant cuts. Volunteers collect free food from the King’s Cross-based health food specialist Marigold and supermarkets, but rely on the grant to keep their vans on the road and cook food.
Mr O’Grady added: “Councils say we should not be giving out food and that people should go to day centres instead. But the problem is they have cut the money from the day centres.”
Islington Town Hall’s executive member for planning, regeneration and transport, Cllr Paul Convery said: “Their food handouts are the wrong way to help homeless, hungry and high-dependency people get off the streets. Homeless shelters and churches are already providing hot meals and outreach without causing street litter and traffic obstructions.
“However well-intentioned they are, we’d rather the food vans stayed away.
“They are not needed here and can be a nuisance to local residents and businesses.”
Lib dem leader Cllr Terry Stacy accused the council of “hypocrisy”.
“It’s a bit hypocritical to do this in the same week that the council has launched its Fairness Commission report, which highlights the need for voluntary organisations,” he said.