Pandemic has seen a different type of person turn to food banks

The pandemic has changed many things about the way we live our lives, but it has also increased the reliance on help from food banks, and changed the type of people needing their support.

Karen Williams, project leader for Food Bank Plus in Shrewsbury, said there had been an increase in the need for support during the pandemic
Karen Williams, project leader for Food Bank Plus in Shrewsbury, said there had been an increase in the need for support during the pandemic

As figures show a significant rise in the number of people relying on assistance from food banks during the pandemic, local groups have told how they have also seen a major increase in demand.

The demand is also coupled with a change in the type of person needing help, with those previously considered more affluent having to turn to the organisations for the first time.

There are positives within the situation, as county food banks report incredible levels of support from the community – with even greater levels of donations than before the Covid-crisis struck.

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Liz Jermy, from Oswestry and the Borders Food Bank, said: "We are definitely seeing people who have never thought about using a food bank before.

"It has never been in their lifestyle at all, and having to think about that and use one, for them is shocking and it feels horrible.

"It is difficult and requires a level of bravery to say 'I need help', but that is what we are here for."

Karen Williams project lead at Food Bank Plus in Shrewsbury, which s run by the Barnabus Community Project, said they were seeing a similar situation develop.

She said: "What is interesting is we have seen a change in the client base. We have had a lot of people with mortgages contact us who would never have expected to use a food bank."

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She added: "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."

Mrs Williams said that one of the families requiring help are in a situation where all of their weekly money is going to cover the cost of their mortgage.

Liz Mountford, a volunteer at Newport Foodbank said they had also seen a different type of person requiring help since the beginning of the pandemic.

Between them the organisations provide food for hundreds of people every week.

The Oswestry group helps more than 50 families on average with a 46 per cent increase on the same time last year, while Food Bank Plus in Shresbury supports more than 100.

All three groups said they expected the increase in demand seen during the pandemic to continue as we head into next year.

They worry is that the ongoing strain on business and the end of furlough will see more families needing support.

Mrs Mountford said: "I think it is going to continue to increase. At the moment people are still being furloughed so they are managing but I imagine people could be made redundant or even lose businesses so I expect it will go up in the coming months."

Mrs Williams said: "We expect an increase and we have planned for that. We are well resourced in terms of donations. We are a community organisation and our community works with us closely and in terms of donations they are fantastic and we could not do it without them.

"We had expected the end of October to be busier because of furlough ending but it has been extended. We are expecting more demand, we hope we are wrong but we do not think that will be the case."

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