Feed a Family: Food banks face a 'perfect storm' this Christmas

Food banks are facing a “perfect storm” this winter as the cost of living soars.

Mike King doing his bit at The Well in Wolverhampton
Mike King doing his bit at The Well in Wolverhampton

Many more families could be forced to make the devastating choice between feeding themselves and heating their homes in the run-up to Christmas.

Soaring gas prices have put already tight budgets under additional strain leaving many with no option but to turn to charities for help.

Now is the time of year when the charities are always traditionally busy with increasing numbers due to the financial pressures that always come with the winter months.

But the end of both the Government’s furlough scheme and the Universal Credit (UC) uplift has also taken its toll on people already struggling to make ends meet.

This is why the Express & Star would like to support charities’ efforts by encouraging people, who can afford to do so, to donate food and toiletries to help those in need.

The Black Country Food Bank, which operates across Dudley, Sandwell and Walsall, says people are queuing up to receive one of its food parcels which contains meals for three days.

Chief executive Jen Coleman said the charity is seeing the impact of rising bills and the removal of Government assistance, which has been heavily replied upon, first-hand.

“We are in the middle of a perfect storm, the reduction of the UC uplift, the end of furlough, increased energy prices, increase in food costs and financial pressures that come along in the winter months mean that many will need to turn to food banks,” she added.

The charity has heard that many people are turning off their gas and electricity as prices rise because they are fearful of the extra cost.

“The cutting of the £20 Universal Credit uplift has had a massive affect. It pulled a rug from under people’s feet.

“A lot of people are having to choose between buying food or heating their homes because that £20 paid their food bill or it paid their energy bill. £20 isn’t a lot but when you have next to nothing it makes a huge difference.

“Debit is also a massive reason because people borrowed during the pandemic.”

Many people have also turned to food banks for the first time since the start of the Covid outbreak.

“A lot of people have been tipped into what we call the ‘poverty bracket’ because they’ve lost their jobs.

“There is still a lot of fear around because of Covid.

“Some people are fearful of leaving their house and that means they are missing out getting the help they need.”

The Black Country Food Bank operates 23 different centres across Dudley, Sandwell and Walsall, with each one in turn providing food parcels lasting three days to vulnerable people and those who have fallen on hard times.

Donations are sorted at the charity’s warehouse in Albion Street, Brierley Hill, before being delivered to the distribution points. Volunteers will then prepare the food packages and will find out if they can point individuals in the direction of other organisations that can help them to get out of their crisis.

So far this year, the food bank has helped 11,951 adults and 6,694 children by providing just over 600,000 meals.

In 2020 it provided 440,000 meals, with 110,000 of those for children under the age of 14.

“Last year was a year like no other but that doesn’t mean the need for food banks has decreased unfortunately," said Jen.

“We are still very busy and have people queuing for food parcels."

The Well in Wolverhampton, which delivers food parcels to around 100 homes every week, is also working flat out to ensure vital supplies reach those who need them the most.

In 12 months they have supported more people with food and toiletries than in any previous year, helping more than 11,000 people - a 10 per cent increase, across all ages, family sizes, communities and cultures.

Gary Price at The Well

Co-project leader Gary Price said: “Demand has stayed high this year. We deliver to people’s homes and we’re doing as many deliveries as we can do each day.

“We’re noticing that we’re going to more affluent areas now like Perton, Codsall and Wombourne more often.

“We used to only go there on the odd occasion, now it’s every week. A lot of people are really struggling at the moment.

“Without the support of people donating - and Wolverhampton Council which has continued to give us boxes of food - we wouldn’t be able to help as many people.”

Since The Well began in 2006, over 83,000 individuals have received food and toiletry parcels. It is currently running a reverse advent calendar project giving people the chance to collect an item a day to donate during December.

The Express & Star’s Feed a Family This Christmas campaign is aiming to bolster the work of these charities and others across the Black Country and Staffordshire that are helping to feed people facing hard times in our communities.

Christmas is supposed to be a time for joy and celebration – but for too many people it’s becoming increasingly difficult.

That’s why we are appealing to readers to donate food and toiletries to the food banks and organisations helping to ensure people do not go hungry.

Below we have listed some of the charities you may wish to support in the coming weeks.

We are asking people to use their established collection points, also listed below.

This will ensure the donations reach their dedicated teams quickly and safely so they can be passed on to those who need them.

All of the organisations that will benefit from your contributions of non-perishable food and toiletries are helping individuals and families in need every day.

Express & Star editor-in-chief Martin Wright said: “Thanks to our incredibly generous readers, last year’s Feed a Family campaign helped some of those people most in need at what can be a particularly difficult time of year.

“The circumstances, including the impact of the pandemic, meant it was more important in ever to help those families struggling to put food on the table.

“This year, as we emerge from the grip of Covid, those same pressures remain. The cost of food is rising and, while Christmas this year should be a chance for us all to get together and celebrate, there will be many who are worrying about how they can make ends meet.

“So once again we are calling on our readers to support our Feed a Family campaign. Please give what you can in the knowledge that your support will put a smile on the face of somebody this Christmas.”

Yvonne Ramsey and Jose Aguilar

What to donate

Any Christmas items need to have ‘best before’ dates beyond December.

Some food banks will not accept festive items after a certain date to ensure it can all be distributed in time for Christmas.

The food must not contain any alcohol (bear in mind for mince pies, Christmas cake, Christmas puddings and chocolates including selection boxes).

Cupboard essentials

  • Breakfast cereal (preferably non-sugared)

  • Milk (UHT or powder, preferably semi-skimmed)

  • Jam, marmalade

  • Fruit juice (long-life)

  • Small jars of coffee

  • Hot chocolate

  • Tinned meat (ham, corned beef, Spam)

  • Tinned ready meals (chilli, meatballs, stew)

  • Tinned vegetarian ready meals (curry, ratatouille, macaroni cheese)

  • Packets of mashed potato/tinned potatoes

  • Tinned vegetables

  • Tinned fish (tuna, mackerel, salmon & sardines)

  • Pasta

  • Rice

  • Pasta sauce/cooking sauces

  • Tinned fruit (in juice preferably)

  • Tinned rice pudding/custard

  • Healthy snacks (small boxes of raisins/apricots)

  • Biscuits, crackers, crispbreads

Toiletries

  • Deodorants

  • Shampoo

  • Shower Gel

  • Soap

  • Toothbrushes

  • Toothpaste

  • Sanitary towels

Where to donate

Black Country Foodbank

The Storehouse, Albion Street, Brierley Hill, DY5 3EE. Open Monday to Friday 9am to 2pm. Telephone: 01384 671250. Website: blackcountryfoodbank.org.uk. Deadline for Christmas food is December 3.

The Well

Unit 16, Wulfrun Trading Estate, Stafford Road, Wolverhampton WV10 6HH. Open Tuesday to Friday 8.30am to 1pm. Please call 01902 256523 before you deliver. Sainsbury’s in Wombourne, Perton and Wednesfield have donation points as well as Asda in Wolverhampton. Website: thewellwolverhampton.co.uk.

Good Shepherd Ministry, Wolverhampton

Food and toiletries can be donated at Sainsbury’s in Chapel Ash. If you have a large number of items to donate, call 01902 399955 to arrange delivery or collection. Website: gsmwolverhampton.org.uk.

Harvest Community Food Bank

New Testament Church of God, New Trust Centre, 1 Wolverhampton Road (on the corner of Woden Road & Wolverhampton Road), Heath Town, Wolverhampton, WV10 0PD Telephone: 01902 453190. Email: info@ntcgharvesttemple.org.uk. Website: ntcgharvesttemple.org.uk. Open Fridays between 3.30pm and 4.30pm. Referral is not necessary but proof of address is required.

Excel Church Food Bank

Wolverhampton Street, Bilston, WV14 0LT. 01902 402273. Open Monday to Wednesday, 9am to 5pm. excelchurch.org.uk/foodparcel.

Cannock and District Food Bank

Coniston Hall, Cecil Street, Chadsmoor, WS11 5HD. Open Monday to Saturday, 10am to 3pm. Telephone: 01543 422394. Website: cannockdistrict.foodbank.org.uk.

Rugeley Food Bank

Rugeley Community Centre, Burnthill Lane, Rugeley, WS15 2HX. Open Monday to Friday 9am to 4pm. Tesco also have a collection point, as do most Rugeley churches. Telephone: 07528 447504. Website: rugeley.foodbank.org.uk.

Walsall North Food Bank

Pelsall Methodist Church, Chapel Street. Open Tuesdays, 11am to 1pm, and Fridays 1pm to 3pm. Telephone: 07582 869895. Website: walsallnorth.foodbank.org.uk.

Bloxwich and Blakenall Food Bank

Blakenall Village Centre, Thames Road, Blakenall, Walsall, WS3 1LZ. Open Thursdays 11am to 1pm. Telephone: 07747 301374. Website: bloxwichblakenall.foodbank.org.uk.

Great Barr Food Bank

St Bernard’s Church, Broome Avenue Great Barr B43 5AL. Open Fridays 12pm to 3pm. Telephone: 0121 3575399. Website: greatbarr.foodbank.org.uk.

Smethwick Food Bank

Holy Trinity Church, Church Hill Street, Smethwick, B67 7AH. Tuesdays and Fridays, 12pm to 2pm. Telephone: 0121 5170141. Website: smethwick.foodbank.org.uk.

Quinton and Oldbury Food Bank

St Boniface Church, Quinton Road West, Quinton, B32 2QD. Open Wednesdays, 11am to 1pm. Telephone: 07732 157619. Website: quintonoldbury.foodbank.org.uk.

Kidderminster Food Bank, based at the Swan Centre

Food can be donated at Tesco, Morrisons and Sainsburys in Kidderminster, Tesco and Co-op in Stourport. Website: kidderminster.foodbank.org.uk.

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