Cost of living: Food banks bracing for the worst winter yet
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The Trust is expecting to provide more than one million emergency food parcels between December 2023 and February 2024 – the most parcels ever provided across this period. This equates to an average of one food parcel every eight seconds (11,500 a day) and 7,000 people seeking support each day.
Between December and February last year, these food banks supported more than 220,000 children with emergency food, and 225,000 people who needed to use a food bank for the first time but it is anticipated these numbers will be even higher this year.
Food banks are calling on people in their local communities to donate, if they can, to ensure that they can continue to support everyone who needs their help.
While donations levels have remained stable compared to last year, the continued increase in need is leading to the vast majority of food banks having to purchase stock to make up for this shortfall.
A recent survey of 282 food banks indicated that in the last three months 93 per cent had to purchase food, at a time when prices are higher than ever, in order to keep up with the rising levels of need. These pressures have also led to one in three (32 per cent) food banks reporting that they are concerned about being able to continue running at their current level in the coming months.
Despite these challenges, food banks in the Trussell Trust network are committed to doing all they can to help people in these challenging times but are having to adapt their operations in new ways in order to meet this challenge.
The Doncaster Foodbank consists of three centres: St James’ Church, Hexthorpe, St Paul’s Church, Wheatley, and Rossington Community Baptist Church.
Project Manager, Julie Poland told the Free Press: “Last year, we fed almost 8,200 people across our city which was a gut-wrenching 100 per cent increase on the year before of 4,089 and the numbers keep rising in our city.
"Since April, we find ourselves close to another 20 per cent up, before entering our busiest time of the year.
“This huge hike has been countered by a substantial drop in food donations as our communities who once fed their own, are affected by the current cost of living crisis. As this gap widens, the cost of re-stocking our shelves to ensure demand is met is now between £3,000 and £5,000 a month, and it’s not just food.
“By working with professional support agencies in Doncaster, our referral process captures in depth data which tells us how we are helping our communities and combining this data with real time conversation, helps us to understand what else needs to be done.
"So far this year, the top reason for referral to our foodbank centres is 'Rising costs of Essentials' with Priority debts like energy bills and rent arrears featuring too and the circumstances that our clients present with in Doncaster, are becoming more complex every visit.
"We know for example that it's not just those on benefits or people experiencing homelessness who are facing crisis anymore, but ordinary working families who are struggling to make ends meet yet working patterns and the stigma of food poverty, still make it difficult for some to reach out and access our service.”
Part of the Doncaster Foodbank project involves working with Citizens Advice Doncaster Borough to offer financial inclusion provision and maximise income for those who visit the centres as well as supporting people on pre-payment meters in need, via a partnership with the Fuelbank Foundation.
Julie said, “Last winter (Dec-Feb) we fed 2,542 people in Doncaster, almost a thousand were children, and we know that for many the driving factor behind needing our help was the heart-breaking decision to heat or eat, or only eat kettle foods to save fuel by not cooking.
“Since November 2022, in part thanks to funding from the VCFS fund Doncaster, we have provided almost £7,000 in emergency fuel vouchers so far to clients facing fuel poverty and we expect this figure to climb as temperatures drop. It is this 'heat or eat' dilemma that prompted our ‘Warming Essentials’ campaign which is currently running on Crowdfunder – we want our clients to be warm as well as fed and we are committed to supporting all those who come to us in financial Crisis this Winter.
“Autumn has begun in earnest and our team are immensely grateful to every single church, school, organisation and Individual who came together and donated to our Harvest Festival this year; My heartfelt thanks to you all...But as we look ahead to what’s in store over the coming months, we can only hope and pray that the generosity of those who are able to support our efforts, continues, while we work to serve those most in need in our city.”
* There are various ways that you can get involved if you are interested in supporting Doncaster Foodbank and several volunteer opportunities available throughout the season.
Don’t be misled - Anyone collecting on our behalf should be able to show you a letter of authority naming them as an official supporter and/or be wearing our uniform. Thank you.
The centres are open as detailed below and you are kindly reminded that you will need a food voucher and that you should bring ID when you collect.
• Wednesdays and Fridays between 10am and 12 noon in St James Church, St Sepulchre Gate West, Hexthorpe, DN1 3AQ (around the corner from the train station).
• Tuesdays between 10am and 12 noon in St Paul's Church, Durham Road, Wheatley Park, DN2 4HN. • Thursdays between 10am and 12 noon in Rossington Community Baptist Church, Holmescarr Community Centre, Grange Lane, Rossington