Between 1st April and 30th September 2017, 758 three day emergency food supplies were provided to local people in crisis by Widnes Foodbank, compared to 464 in the same period in the previous year. 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 surrounding benefit payments; Universal Credit roll out in the area; low wages; and insecure work.
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. Widnes Foodbank is asking the community to help them prepare for their busiest time of year by donating urgently needed food items, including tinned meats, tinned vegetables, long-life milk, instant mash, and instant soup.
Widnes Foodbank shares 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. Widnes Foodbank is working hard to help prevent local people affected going hungry but is troubled by the extra pressure this puts on food donation stocks and volunteers’ capacity.
A spokesperson for the foodbank said;
“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. Thank you so much to everyone who already donates time, food and money to help local people. If you’d like to get 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.”