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Demand for Smethwick Foodbank is 'worst it's ever been'

By George Makin | Smethwick | News | Published:

The boss of a food bank which is handing out up to 150 emergency parcels a day has said the situation is "the worst it has ever been".

Demand for Smethwick foodbank soars

Smethwick Foodbank has had to ramp up the aid it gives out to hard-hit households in Sandwell, as other local charities closed and unemployment soared.

Volunteers say they have seen demand increase by 350 per cent during the coronavirus crisis.

Janine Bowers-Wild, manager of the church-based charity, said demand is the worst they’ve seen since opening in 2011.

She said: “In March and April we helped 3,015 people compared to the same time last year when we helped around 800.

“We have seen lots of people – who would had been receiving support from other agencies that closed because of the lockdown – come to us

“We had migrants who were working previously and who can’t claim benefits because they have no recourse to public funds .

“Others have been furloughed but haven’t received their wages and we have people who have been made unemployed.

“We’ve seen men in their forties and fifties who have no clue about what to do when they’re out of work and don’t know how to claim benefits.”

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“We hand out around 80 parcels on Tuesday and around 150 on Fridays.

“I don’t think we could have predicted the impact on us. The busiest day we had before this was at Christmas when we have had 67 people using the service. “

Figures from the Office of National Statistics revealed the number of claimants in Sandwell rocketed from 9,990 in January to 18,535 by May.

And because other charities have had to close due to the virus, Smethwick is now dealing with people from across the Black Country and Birmingham.

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Janine added: “We do care quite deeply about the plight of people. Some are very apprehensive about coming to a foodbank but it is apparent that it is something that can happen to anyone very quickly.

“So there are no judgements by us beyond caring.”

She fears more people while need their help in future. “We are expecting demand to continue rising for quite a while especially as people run down whatever financial reserves they’ve still got and others may not have jobs to go back too.”

The charity is supported by regular collections of food and money.

You can donate to Smethwick foodbank either through its web site at smethwick.foodbank.org.uk or by calling 0121 517 0141

George Makin

By George Makin

Local Democracy Reporting Service

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