Expanding workload of foodbank is matched by public's generosity

It has been a year like no other for volunteers running a foodbank in Shropshire.

Ruth Davies, of Ludlow food bank, says she is amazed by the generosity of people
Ruth Davies, of Ludlow food bank, says she is amazed by the generosity of people

Today members of the enterprise in Ludlow reveal how demand has soared since lockdown.

Their experience is mirrored across the county as families find themselves in sudden and unexpected hardship.

Ludlow food bank’s usage numbers have been slowly increasing over the past couple of years, but 2020 brought a sudden upward curve in numbers.

In the last year the food bank gave out nearly 100 more food parcels than they did in 2019, and nearly 200 more than 2018. In total more than 550 parcels were delivered.

In 2020, the rising figures were mainly attributed to the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic which led to a lockdown in March, leaving many people redundant or on furlough, struggling to cope with the financial pressures.

People who may never have used food banks before were turning to them in their droves as they worried about putting food on the table for their families and budgeting their last pay check.

Ruth Davies, head co-ordinator of Ludlow food bank, said that despite the hardships of the year, kindness has also prevailed as so many people have volunteered and donated money and food to those in need.

“It’s been a crazy year, just so busy,” Ruth said. “There have been so many people who would never have had to think about going to a food bank suddenly thinking they needed to.

“It’s got to be frightening for them. We are glad we have been there and able to help.

“This has been by far the busiest year we have ever had. It has been amazing for the amount of people wanting to volunteer, or saying they want to donate something.

“Even with small amounts, you know that person is giving it out of their own pocket. There were others who are more well off and give more, and they have. It has been overwhelming really.”

Ruth said that people have been able to give their time more freely if they were on furlough or between jobs, including kind volunteers at Ludlow’s Working Together, and this meant the food bank was never short of eager hands ready to help. However the number of people using the food bank reached new levels in 2020.

In 2020 they gave out 560 food parcels, with enough food to feed 1,202 people for a week. The highest numbers were seen in March, April and December – the latter saw 63 food parcels sent out, as well as a further 64 special Christmas parcels for those who were struggling over the festive season.

Ruth said the food bank had more people contact them directly to receive a food parcel than ever before, as they would usually go through referral agencies but many were not operating or they couldn’t get hold of them.

Around 109 people, or 21.2 per cent, self-referred themselves to the food bank in 2020, compared to just 42 in 2019.

Ruth said: “This is something that I would like to see reduce, but having spoken to people in this position, many have been really quite desperate, with problems that have clearly been very genuine.”

The majority of the people the food bank helped were people who lived in Ludlow - 483 food parcels were sent to Ludlow residents, this was 86.3 per cent of all the food parcels they supplied.

One of those residents was a woman who wished to remain anonymous due to the stigma surrounding the use of food banks.

She suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a group of lung conditions that make it difficult to empty air out of the lungs because the airways have become narrowed.

“My daughter and her children have had Covid, she is one of my carers so she can’t come over at the moment,” she said.

“So I have not been able to get out and get any food, and I don’t have the money for groceries at the moment. All of my friends in Ludlow are also shielding like me so I didn’t have anyone to go out for me.

“I don’t know what I would have done without the food bank. They are brilliant. I had a food parcel from Shropshire Council last Friday and also one from the Government – it was awful, I couldn’t live on that for a week.

“I am on the last stage of COPD. I have heart valve problems, so to have the food bank in place is brilliant. It’s saved me in the last couple of weeks. If I have got anything left I will send it back to the food bank.”

She said she was so grateful for the food bank as with her lung condition, she wouldn’t stand a chance against Covid-19.

She also said that she was able to secure a spot on a supermarket’s home delivery service but you had to spend more than £40, and she wasn’t in a financial position to do so and living by herself, wouldn’t need that much money’s worth of food.

Ruth said that these problems have bought Ludlow closer as a community as more people were offering help then they could ever imagine.

“It is very much my hope that over time we will see less and less people needing the food bank,” she said. “Until that day comes we will carry on.

"We may have some tough times ahead, but as we all work together to help the most vulnerable in our society, I will continue to be grateful for the wonderful people who have pulled together during this difficult year and made things less grim in Ludlow than they otherwise might have been.”

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