Foodbank usage keeps going up – when breaking records is nothing to celebrate

More food parcels expected to be given out this winter than ever before

Hastings’ leading food bank has just had its busiest October on record, with a sharp increase in those being referred for emergency food aid.

Natalie Williams, community engagement manager at King’s Church, where the food bank is based, says demand is: “… going up and up.”

The record October is just part of an upward trend and follows a record August and September: “We’re worried about this winter,” she said. “If the trend of the past few months continues, we’ll see about a 15 per cent increase this winter.

“The main reasons people come to us are things like benefit changes, benefit delays and the five-week wait for Universal Credit.

“But what’s also happening now is that we’re seeing a massive increase in people being referred who are on low income. So what that tells us is that actually there are lots of people now who are living in perpetual crisis, rather than just having an acute crisis when something happens.”

Ms Williams stressed, though, that agencies would still be able to refer people to the food bank and the food would come in, thanks to Hastings peoples’ ‘great community spirit’ but adds: “We’d rather we weren’t necessary.”

Hastings is one of the biggest food banks in the country – it gives out a tonne of food a week. Nationally the picture is the same. Food banks throughout the UK had their busiest six months up to September, with more than 820,000 emergency food parcels given out, reports the Trussell Trust charity.

During the six months, 823,145 three-day emergency food parcels were given out at the Trust’s foodbanks to people in crisis in the UK. More than a third of these, just over 300,000, went to children. That represents a 23 per cent increase on the same period in 2018 – the sharpest rate of increase the charity has seen for the past five years.

Screenshot 2019-11-23 15.42.46
From the foodbank’s website, go to https://hastings.foodbank.org.uk/

The new figures come just a week after the Trussell Trust released State of Hunger, the most in-depth study ever published into hunger and the drivers of food bank use in the UK. The research revealed:

  • The average weekly income of households at food banks is only £50 after paying rent
  • One in five have no money coming in at all in the month before being referred for emergency food
  • 94 per cent of people at food banks are destitute

In next month’s General Election the Trussell Trust is calling for politicians of all parties to pledge to protect people from hunger by ensuring everyone has enough money for the basics.

It wants to see the ending of the five-week wait for Universal Credit; benefit payments to cover the cost of living and investment in local emergency support for people in crisis.

Labour parliamentary candidate for Hastings and Rye, Peter Chowney, said:  “The early roll-out of Universal Credit in Hastings and benefit sanctions have led to extreme hardship and increased levels of homelessness.

“Benefits should help people find fulfilling jobs, not punish them, and not force them to focus solely on how they’re going to find the next meal for their children.

“I firmly believe that treating people fairly when they fall on hard times will help them get back on their feet. As MP, I would fight to ensure that everyone in the constituency could live with dignity and comfort, whatever their financial circumstances.”

Labour has pledged to scrap Universal Credit, creating a new social security system that it says would lift people out of poverty and add £2 billion additional funding for benefits

The party would end the benefits cap, scrap the so-called bedroom tax and end benefit sanctions

Back at Hastings foodbank Ms Williams says: “We don’t think anyone in our community should have to face going hungry. That’s why we provide three days’ nutritionally balanced emergency food and support to local people who are referred to us in crisis.”

Earlier this year, to mark the seventh anniversary of its opening, Hastings Foodbank featured in The Huffington Post Usually at the time Ms Williams said: “…anniversaries are something we celebrate, but today we certainly won’t be eating any cake or popping open champagne… . The fact that our foodbank opened seven years ago today upsets us. We wish we had never been needed. It’s shocking that we were, and it’s shocking that we still are. If we were blowing out candles today, we’d be wishing for a time when we could close our doors because no one needs our help any more.”

The Liberal Democrats Nick Perry who hopes to be Hastings’ MP after the election says: “There is every reason to be grateful to our foodbank for their work and as the staff themselves say, upset that they are needed at all.

“Amber Rudd and her Conservative colleagues have presided over a huge failure at the Department for Work and Pensions and the delays and unfair reviews have caused untold hardship in our constituency.

“But what was Peter Chowney doing as Leader of the borough council when Universal Credit was being piloted here? Why was he not jumping up and down on a national stage about this issue? Why should we think he would be any more effective as our new MP?’

Have you heard The Hastings Podcast yet? Click the link below…

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