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Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Local foodbanks see sharp rise in demand as covid bites hard

The number of people claiming universal credit to support low income increased by 50% from January to December in 2020, the organisers of a local food bank have said.

Stoke-on-Trent Foodbank, which also covers Knypersley and Biddulph, said that as well as the number of families receiving support from universal credit increasing more than 50%, a “disproportionate” number of young adults’ employment had been affected by the pandemic.

The foodbank also said that some working families were falling through the support net. The Office of Budget Responsibility has already reported that unemployment will peak mid-2021 and only return to pre-pandemic levels in four years’ time.

But Keith Stubbs, chair of trustees at Stoke-on-Trent Foodbank, said the good news was that despite the challenging times, local people, including businesses, had rallied round to support those who are struggling.

Mr Stubbs said: “Everyone has been impacted by the covid-19 pandemic and unsurprisingly in 2020 Stoke-on-Trent Foodbank saw unprecedented demand.

“In 2020 we fed 14,000 people, 1,552 in December alone.

“However, since last March we have seen an amazing response from the local community, including businesses keen to help the foodbank to ensure that no one has to face going hungry.”

He said that foodbanks made a difference, helping combat family breakdown, housing loss and mental health problems.

He told the Chronicle: “As we head into 2021, it definitely feels like the long haul, with the economic and social impact of covid-19 not disappearing any time soon.

“An increasing number of long-term furloughed workers are now being made redundant and many self-employed businesses struggling or gone.

“As well as the number of families receiving support from universal credit increasing more than 50%, a disproportionate number of young adults’ employment has been impacted. Also, some working families are falling through the support net.”

The case study provided by the foodbank was a woman named only as C. She said: “The food bank has been a blessing in a time of need we never thought we would find ourselves in. Since March 2020, my husband has had minimal work, resulting in a massive drop of income. I started working as a key worker during the pandemic alongside caring for our children and family.

“Over the Christmas period and into January we all had covid. Statutory sick pay is around £13 a day and that’s all I could get. Thankfully, the food bank was there to support us with feeding our family and providing hygiene products.

“Luckily, the food bank does not turn you away for being a working family in need. The food bank is helping those falling through the safety net.”

Stoke-on-Trent Foodbank is now looking to secure support from 21 local businesses, to each pledge £1,000 in order to make sure it can continue to support struggling people throughout 2021 and beyond.

First to pledge £1,000 was Stafford-based Altecnic whose managing director Gary Perry said: “We are all here proud to be supporting the Stoke-on-Trent Foodbank and hope that this will encourage other local businesses to do the same.

“We recognise that the pandemic has contributed to an increased need for support in our local communities and as a responsible business we are pleased to support the foodbank in its vital work.”

Corrine Boden, Stoke-on-Trent Foodbank operations manager, said: “We want to see the end of people needing to use foodbanks and are working towards this, but we don’t think that this is going to happen in the near future. Meanwhile we are prepared for the year ahead and are here for people in food crisis.

“We work strategically in partnership with a variety of local stakeholders to address poverty and hardship and to reduce the need for emergency food in our community. We provide statistics and other evidence through the Trussell Trust, aiming to influence government policy, to make changes and to create a system where no one is left behind.”

Stoke-on-Trent Foodbank is one of 19 foodbanks selected by the Trussell Trust from across the UK to be part of its national Pathfinder Programme to share best practice and support the wider network to ensure that this happens.

The foodbank and its network of church-based food distribution centres has worked hard to meet the needs of those in food poverty since its launch in 2012.

Sixteen centres run by the support of 200 plus volunteers welcome guests with the “gift of food” and importantly, show kindness and compassion.

Fifteen of the centres are open to guests for two-hour sessions operating on a rotating basis covering six days a week across the city of Stoke-on-Trent and outlying areas.

Centres include St John’s Church, Knypersley (Mondays 11am-1pm), and English Martyrs’ RC Church, Biddulph (Thursdays 6pm-8pm). Its full list of centres can be found online at stokeontrent.foodbank.org.uk Search for “locations”.

People experiencing temporary food crisis, who are identified by front line professional organisations, are issued with an e-voucher that can be exchanged for a three-day nutritionally balanced food parcel to feed themselves and their household.

In addition, Stoke-on-Trent Foodbank works with Money Matters and other local charities and organisations in order to provide people with advice and help to deal with the crisis that brought them to the foodbank.

Any business interested in finding out more about being a 21 for 2021 Business should contact the Stoke-on-Trent Foodbank community and business liaison co-ordinator by emailing caroline@stokeontrent.foodbank.org.uk.

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