This week television personality and creator of Reggae Reggae Sauce, Levi Roots, volunteered at his local food bank in Brixton, part of the Trussell Trust’s network of food banks, to support the centre’s work and raise awareness of poverty, affecting millions of people across the UK.
The businessman and author, who rose to fame on the Dragon’s Den TV show, said it was ‘shameful’ that in one of the world’s richest countries ‘people were going hungry’ and that the government’s plans to cut Universal Credit by £20 a week could push ‘thousands more people’ through food banks’ doors.
“I grew up in the seventies in Lambeth and so I know what it’s like to be hungry – I think everyone around me was hungry,” he said.
“I grew up on benefits and it felt shameful – no one wants to rely on hand-outs – you would rather work yourself out of poverty, but you’ve got to have the tools to do that.”
Levi describes coming from Jamaica to London as a small boy.
“It was very daunting,” he said. “I had never even left my village before. I arrived in the middle of winter and it was awful, but you learn to adapt. Before I knew it, I became an English boy. Brixton is special to me.”
He said he was inspired by his trip to Brixton Foodbank and the ‘amazing’ operation he witnessed and is now encouraging people to support the work of food banks. He is also urging Londoners to support the Keep the Lifeline campaign, which is calling for the government to stop the £20 a week cut to Universal Credit payments, next month.
“I absolutely feel ashamed that in our country – one of the richest in the world – children are going hungry,” he said.
“People can’t afford to turn the heating on or eat hot food because they can’t afford to turn the oven on. The government’s plans to cut Universal Credit could push thousands more people through the doors of food banks. This is not right.”
He added: “If we all shout with one voice, we can make change happen and that is why I want to get involved to say enough is enough. The government needs to support people living in poverty.”
The Trussell Trust’s chief executive Emma Revie added:
“Cutting this lifeline will be a devastating blow for millions of households already struggling to make ends meet. The answer must be to ensure our social security system provides people with enough money to cover the essentials. At the very least we’re saying this October, the UK government must choose to protect people and choose to keep the lifeline.”
She is urging the public to write to local MPs calling on them to take action and keep the £20-a-week lifeline: trusselltrust.org/keepthelifeline