'Uphill battle!' What it's like working in a foodbank during the cost-of-living crisis

Far busier than normal – and braced for a winter like no other.

Telford Crisis Support of Operations Manager Simon Lellow, where stocks are running low and they are in need of donations.
Telford Crisis Support of Operations Manager Simon Lellow, where stocks are running low and they are in need of donations.

Foodbanks today spoke of their fears for families as the cost of living crisis deepens.

Spiralling fuel bills and the ever-increasing cost of groceries are putting people at very real risk of going short.

Today the Shropshire Star launches the Feed a Family campaign.

We have previously made an appeal at Christmas for groceries to help foodbanks meet demand.

But, with inflation rampant and enormous pressure on gas and electricity bills, there is an urgent need for help right now, as we enter the last bank holiday of the summer.

Our Feed a Family campaign has helped hand out emergency food and toiletry parcels in over the years to support charities and food banks working to support people struggling to make ends meet.

With energy bills rising along with food prices and rents, there is now an increasing need for stocks of food, non perishable items and provisions to be handed out on up to a daily basis.

The two years of lockdown saw the food banks still operating – albeit with reduced staff – to help Shropshire's families get food, clothes, toiletries and baby item plus even pet food for their dogs and cats.

The need hasn't got any less, but the food banks are now working without social distancing,- meaning they can again provide a full service to the community.

Workers at Bridgnorth Food bank

Keith Bowley, the treasurer of Bridgnorth Food Bank, which has been operating since 2013, said he is expecting demand to rise substantially as the effect of rising energy bills and inflation starts to bite.

The government recently announced all households in England, Scotland and Wales will receive £400 to help with rising fuel bills with staggered payment between October this year and March 2023, but that, along with other help on offer, is unlikely to offset the cost of living.

The Bridgnorth food bank operates from West Castle Street on a Monday morning. It currently has 49 clients and typically hands out 25-30 parcels a week to a mixture of individuals and families.

Keith said: "The need is particularly high during the winter normally, so it is particularly important now that we start to build up stocks.

"We are independent from the Trussell Trust but we are lucky in having a good volunteer network of around 20 people and we couldn't operate without them – we value them all

"We also have support network in terms of fundraising to help keep us running, sponsorship from local businesses, and a constant supply of donations which is vital for any food bank to continue to function.

"Bridgnorth isn't the most highly populated place and it is fairly affluent compared to some areas but we do see a steady demand for our services.

"The aim is to provide enough for each week, with tins of fish and meat, packets of food and fresh vegetables high on the list,although we regularly review what we give out.

"With holding the food bank on a Monday morning we get supplies of food from the supermarkets and Greggs donate food as well with things like the steak bakes and pasties which always prove popular

"I would say we are coping well certainly with donations of food and towards the running costs, but with the constant, or so it seems, increase in household bills and living costs, we are expecting an increase in demand towards Christmas."

Workers at Bridgnorth food bank

Karen Williams, project lead at Shrewsbury Food Bank, organises and distributes parcels of donated items, and believes there will be an ever increasing need for their services in the town and surrounding area towards Christmas.

Numbers through the door at their main base, at Barnabas Church Centre in Longden Coleham, have increased from 118 people a week in July last year to 170 people a week in the same month this year.

If comparing August, numbers are even higher than July, at 193 compared to 120 last year in the same period.

She said: "Obviously we have all heard about the energy bills increase but it is having a huge effect on numbers and it is what people who come in are talking about.

"Many of our clients are working so it is not your stereotypical customer and quite a lot are from the rural area I have noticed rather than from in and around town.

"We have tried to address this by increasing opening hours and setting up branches where we can in the more rural areas so potential clients don't have to travel as far. We have teamed up with the Roe Valley Food Bank at Pontesbury which was created during Covid and also work out at Minsterley, doing one evening a week at each.

"The aim is to provide three meals a day seven days a week whether this is for a family, and individual or a couple."

The food bank sees 98 per cent of food donated so very little has to be brought in and again Karen is full of praise for the 75 volunteers who staff the project and said it is down to their hard work it is runs so well.

Meanwhile along the A5, organisers of Telford’s food bank say they are facing an "uphill battle" to keep its services going as the cost of living crisis in the UK starts to hit

Operations manager Simon Lellow says Crisis Support, the charity that runs it, is putting in £1,000 a week from its own reserves of funds because donations are dwindling.

Recently the shelves at its Halesfield headquarters had one tip of soup on them, compared to during the lock down when a unit they used for storage in Sutton Hill had 2,000.

This year they had already served 93,000 meals up to the start of August – in 2020 they served 90,000 for the whole year.

Simon commented: “The cost-of-living crisis is really kicking in hard now and has been for several months. We are facing an uphill battle to maintain the service at the moment.

“Effectively, we are sending out more than twice the amount of food than we are getting in and that’s not sustainable.

“We are having to dig in hard to our reserves for food. We used to be in a position where we had a floating stock of the staple foods such as tinned beans and soup but that’s not the case now.

“I call it the feast and famine effect, where you either have too much coming in or not enough. It also seems as the need goes up, the goodwill goes down because people are struggling to pay their own bills and feed their own families, never mind being responsible for others.

“We are lucky in that we have those reserves to call on but they aren’t endless obviously and it’s not an ideal situation to have to run them down.

Other food banks across Shropshire are working tirelessly to help people out, some big and some small. The Oswestry and Borders food bank covers an area straddling Shropshire and Powys councils and is supported by 40 churches and 16 schools, where Church Stretton food bank operates out of one centre with two drop off points. They all have one thing in common though – they need your help.

Most Read

Most Read

Top Stories

More from the Shropshire Star

UK & International News