Spike in foodbank use ahead of Christmas

December 07 2017
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Between 1st April and 30th September 2017, 1,898 three day emergency food supplies were provided to local people in crisis by North Bristol Foodbank, compared to 1,735 the same period in the previous year

New figures show 1,898 emergency food supplies given to local people by North Bristol Foodbank in six months

Between 1st April and 30th September 2017, 1,898 three day emergency food supplies were provided to local people in crisis by North Bristol Foodbank, compared to 1,735 the same period in the previous year. Of this number, 722 went to children. The foodbank, a member of The Trussell Trust’s network which has today reported an increase in UK foodbank use, believes the local increase is due to people struggling with continued issues with benefit payments, low wages, insecure work and people having difficulties with debt.

In the months leading to Christmas a number of factors, such as cold weather and high energy bills, or foodbanks and referral agencies ensuring that people who are likely to hit crisis have food ahead of Christmas Day, mean The Trussell Trust’s foodbank network traditionally sees a spike in foodbank use. North Bristol Foodbank is asking the community to help them prepare for their busiest time of year by donating urgently needed food items to our Christmas Appeal.

At the North Bristol Foodbank we are starting to see single job-seekers who are being moved on to Universal Credit visit us at our centres. We share the concerns of other Trussell Trust foodbanks in full Universal Credit rollout areas about the issues people referred to the charity have experienced with the new system. The 6+ week waiting period for a first payment can contribute to debt, mental health issues and rent arrears. The effects of these can last even after people receive their Universal Credit payments, as bills and debts pile up. North Bristol Foodbank is working hard to help prevent local people affected going hungry but is troubled by the prospect of a full rollout in North Bristol in May 2018, and the extra pressure this may put on food donation stocks and volunteers’ capacity.

Jon Dobson, Foodbank Manager of North Bristol Foodbank said: “It’s really worrying that we are still seeing an increase in need for emergency food across North Bristol. The number of vouchers we have redeemed has risen by 14%, compared with the same period last year, and the number of emergency food supplies given (accounting for family sizes) has increased by 9%, meaning we are seeing more single people accessing our service. Every week people are referred to us after something unavoidable - like illness, a delayed benefit payment or an unexpected bill - means there’s no money for food. It’s only with local people’s help that we’re able to provide vital support when it matters most, and whilst we hope one day there’ll be no need for our work, until that day comes we’ll be working hard to help prevent people going hungry. To this end, we are glad to be collaborating with the Feeding Bristol initiative in their strategic approach to work towards a hunger-free Bristol. Thank you so much to everyone who already donates time, food and money to help local people. If you’re not already involved, we’d love to hear from you!”

Mark Ward, Interim Chief Executive at The Trussell Trust, said: “We’re seeing soaring demand at foodbanks across the UK. Our network is working hard to stop people going hungry but the simple truth is that even with the enormous generosity of our donors and volunteers, we’re concerned foodbanks could struggle to meet demand this winter if critical changes to benefit delivery aren’t made now. People cannot be left for weeks without any income, and when that income does come, it must keep pace with living costs – foodbanks cannot be relied upon to pick up the pieces. Without urgent action from policy-makers and even more generous practical support from the public, we don’t know how foodbanks are going to stop families and children going hungry this Christmas.”

The foodbank welcomes any new offers of help with funding or donations to our Christmas Appeal – local businesses, organisations and individuals interested in supporting the foodbank’s work can find out more at https://northbristol.foodbank.org.uk/give-help/. At Christmas time the Foodbank would love to be able to share some special items with people who are struggling, so please check the website for details of needs.