Food banks feeling the effects of cost of living crisis

The plights of families struggling to live during the current cost of living crisis have been laid bare by food banks from across the region.

Narinder Kaur said the number of referrals to Everybody Prosper SDB had hugely increased
Narinder Kaur said the number of referrals to Everybody Prosper SDB had hugely increased

The current crisis has seen energy prices rapidly increase and families finding themselves forced to choose between food and electricity for their homes, with many cases being reported of people skipping meals to feed their children.

Food banks and other services have been feeling the effects as well, through increases in referrals and people coming in to access the services they provide.

House of Bread, in Stafford, helps vulnerable and homeless people in the town and surrounding area through drop-in sessions, providing food and friendship, taking in referrals from different agencies.

Operations manager Jack Morris said it had taken 20 to 30 more referrals in the last month than it would normally do and said it had been mostly families that had been the reason for the increase.

He said: "We already support people who are vulnerable and homeless, but we have seen a steady increase in families and people in work, sometimes double-income families with children, and that has happened all the way across the last month.

"We've spoken to a lot of them and they all seem to be struggling with things like the energy price cap and not being able to keep up with food cost rises, leaving them getting squeezed and coming to us when it's an absolute emergency.

"They're also telling us of how they are skipping meals to feed their children and are feeling the squeeze, as are we, as we are finding that the increase is really stretching our resources as we have having more go out than we have coming back in."

For Narinder Kaur from Everybody Prosper SDB in Wolverhampton, the increase in referrals to the charity, which provides food bank and delivery services across the city, was phenomenal and not just for humans, but pets as well.

She said: "There's no number on the number of referrals we're getting as professionals are sending people to us on a daily basis and that includes the RSPCA, as people are losing their pets because they have to choose between them and buying food.

"We've set up a pet food bank as well, with pet food and non-perishable foods, as people are coming to us and saying that they are having to use their own food to feed pets and they are going hungry.

"It's just such a mental impact on families struggling to feed themselves and school teachers saying that children are coming in hungry and in the 21st century, this is extremely sad as it shouldn't be happening in a Western country."

At West Bromwich Community Church food bank, manager Keith Turner said they were getting more than 30 extra referrals a week and said there were a number of reasons why this was happening.

He said: "We're finding that the majority of referrals were coming in from people who have been hit by the rise in energy prices, with one of the first referrals being someone quoting energy debt as a reason.

"It's hitting a lot of people who are on low incomes and who are making new claims for Universal Credit and, because it takes up to five weeks to get started, they're finding themselves having to come to us.

"My ambition when we opened the food bank in 2007 was to be able to close it as it was no longer needed, but that's sadly not the case at the moment as we are still very much needed."

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