Fines drive Food For All charity off the road

Published: July 28, 2011

FREE lunches for hundreds of homeless people and others who struggle to meet rising food costs are under threat after a charity stopped handing out meals following what they claim is a deliberate campaign by Camden Council to scare them off the streets.

The Food For All scheme, based in Caledonian Road, which was launched in the early 1980s by Hare Krishna followers, distributes meals from a van to Arlington Road, Camden Town, Caversham Road, Kentish Town, and York Way, Agar Grove every day.

But after receiving a series of tickets for parking on double yellow lines in York Way while they served up food, the charity have said they will have to withdraw the service – leaving hundreds without a hot meal.

Volunteer Peter O’Grady said: “Vans delivering cigarettes and alcohol to small shops are given 20 minutes’ grace as long as they are not blocking the road – yet our van, which is providing a vital meal every day to people most in need, has been given ticket after ticket after ticket.

“We are not going to give out food in York Way anymore. We simply have had to stop. Tickets were being issued every day, and the parking wardens were just so persistent.”

He said that a clerk at the Town Hall suggested they send in the tickets with a covering letter and they would be rescinded – but claims this has not happened.

“When I tried to get our daily ticket quashed, I got a letter back saying no mistake had been made and we had to pay. For us, that is the final straw,” said Mr O’Grady.

He said that Food For All receive phone calls from council staff and the police each week asking for help with people living on the breadline.

Mr O’Grady added: “Some people are so ­hungry when they come to us they eat three helpings, each one being a meal in itself. It means we get one hand asking us to help, the other ­taking away our ability to do so.”

A Town Hall spokes­man said the council had received complaints from people living nearby the York Way meal distribution point.

“We understand what they are trying to do and we have spoken to their drivers to explain that we have found alternative, quieter locations nearby where they could park without causing an obstruction and where there is no risk of being ticketed,” the spokesman added. “We have received complaints from businesses and residents and we have a public duty to manage this very busy stretch of road effectively. There is no exemption from enforcement for their activities and if they continue to park there rather than in the nearby alternatives they will run the risk of enforcement.”