Demand for food parcels rockets in Shropshire during pandemic

More than 5,000 emergency food parcels have been handed out to Shropshire families during the pandemic, new figures show.

The Trussell Trust foodbank campaigns charity said dozens of the food parcels had been given to families every week, with 1,815 of them going to children.

It means there has been a huge rise in the number of people requiring help, with 2,104 more being handed out in Shropshire than at the same time last year.

The Trussell Trust said a record 1.2 million parcels were given to people struggling to afford essentials nationally between April and September, and warned the figures are "the tip of the iceberg".

In Shropshire, the charity said it had handed out 5,039 emergency food parcels over the period – with 70 specifically for children every week.

Overall, the charity dished out 72 per cent more parcels in the area than it did during the same six-month period last year.

In Powys there was also a huge rise, with 3,204 handed out, up 2,000 on the previous year.

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It comes as local food banks have warned that the number of people needing their help is increasing – and that the type of people requiring help is also changing, with requests from those who traditionally would not have needed support.

The economic consequences of the pandemic have been put down as the reason.

Karen Williams project lead at Food Bank Plus in Shrewsbury said: "Previously people would say 'I have run out of electricity' because they are on a pre-paid meter, now people are saying they cannot pay their direct debit.

"It is a different type of person who I don't think would ever have expected to use a food bank."

She said she expected the number of people requiring help to continue to rise – as businesses come under more strain, and when the furlough period ends next year.

Compassion

The Trussell Trust said its figures do not include the number of people helped by community organisations, independent food banks and local authorities.

Emma Revie, the charity's chief executive, said volunteers have been working hard to support people in need, but added it is "not right that any of us are forced to use a charity for food, at any time of year".

She added: "In the last few weeks we’ve seen incredible compassion and concern for people facing hunger following Marcus Rashford’s brilliant campaigning, and it's hugely welcome to see the Government build on steps already taken by providing significant new funding for local councils in England.

“This vital local support must work in co-ordination with a national welfare system that is strong enough to act as a lifeline to anyone struggling to afford the essentials."

“This pandemic has shown the unexpected can hit us suddenly, with devastating consequences for people’s lives, but it’s also shown we can make huge changes to the way we live and look after each other."

Across the UK, food bank demand in the six months to September increased by 47 per cent compared to the same period last year.

More than a third of food parcels went to children during this period – 470,000 in total.

The charity voiced concern that food banks in its network may see high levels of need over the winter and beyond, particularly as redundancies increase.

The top three reasons for someone being referred to a food bank in the Trussell Trust’s network over the period were low income, benefit delays and sickness or ill health.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “We are committed to making sure that the most vulnerable in our society are protected and we’ve put in place a strong package of support to ensure children and their families do not go hungry during this pandemic.

“Our additional £400 million of funding includes £170 million to help families stay warm and well-fed this winter, a further £16 million to provide immediate support to frontline food aid charities, and £220 million Holiday Activities and Food programme."

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