Shropshire Star

Feed a Family: Food banks have never been so busy

In her six years running Shropshire's oldest food bank, Karen Williams has never known it so busy.

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At the Project Food Bank Plus last year were, from left: food bang manager Karen Williams, Dave Grace and Emma James

"This month we had a record week, we were feeding 239 people," she says. "Normally, it is about 125."

Mrs Williams, project manager at Shrewsbury Food Bank Plus, adds that an increasing number of people from professional backgrounds are using food banks, with teachers, architects and even high-flying bankers among those needing help.

The situation has become so severe that the charity has started opening evenings so that those in full-time employment can get the help they need.

This week, the Shropshire Star launches our Feed a Family for Christmas campaign, where we ask our generous band of readers to spare a thought for those who will be suffering hardship over the festive period.

We are urging people to donate groceries, household essentials and maybe a few Christmas treats to food banks across our region, to ensure that nobody has to go hungry this Christmas.

There are food banks right across Shropshire and Mid Wales, but the Shrewsbury one, based at St Barnabus' Church Hall, is the oldest in the county. And the charity, which celebrates its 25th anniversary next year, has now started opening on Wednesday evenings to cater for the growing number of people in full-time employment.

"People feel a real sense of failure and shame because they are having to come to a food bank," says Mrs Williams.

She admits she is surprised at the number of apparently middle-class and well-educated people who have started using the food bank in recent months.

"We're seeing people I never thought we would see in a food bank. We are seeing professional people," she says.

"We have had a a banker, and I don't mean somebody from a local branch, I mean a high-end banker, we have had an architect, we have had teachers.

"We have had employers referring people to food banks because they realise their staff are in crisis."

Karen Williams, manager of Shrewsbury Food Bank

The food bank in Oswestry covers a large area, from Ruyton-XI-Towns in the east to Powys in the west. Manager Liz Jermy says the number of people needing help increased sharply at the start of the pandemic, and has remained largely constant since.

"Although people are back at work, and employment is around for people, the number needing help hasn't decreased."

Mrs Jermy says the rising cost of living is probably the biggest factor in people needing help at the moment.

"Everything is getting more expensive," she says. "Food is more expensive, fuel is more expensive, but incomes are not going up at the same rate. You find you have got the same needs, but don't have the money to pay for it."

She says another problem is that the support available during the pandemic has in many cases come to an end.

"People who were able to put things off, mortgage payments, or rent, are now having those commitments called in," says Mrs Jermy.

"A lot of people are also pushed into crisis by things like late benefit payments, salaries being paid."

Very often it will be the combination of a number of setbacks, which in themselves may be manageable, all coming at the same time. Prolonged coronavirus restrictions, extended periods of furlough, and rising living costs can all create a cumulative impact.

Mrs Williams says: "People's budgets are stretched and stretched, and then when something happens they have no room to stretch any more.

"We have noticed an increase in people having to leave home because of domestic violence."

And the period just before Christmas is always the busiest.

"I think the impact of the winter always makes a big difference," says Mrs Williams. "Christmas is a real pinch point, because the budgets are always stretched.

"People are paying more for their gas and electricity, even if you're in work."

Mrs Williams says Shrewsbury Food Bank Plus will be donating 280 Christmas hampers this year.

Mrs Jermy says the Oswestry food bank is still collecting data on who it will be helping, but the number of parcels is likely to be similar.

"Last year we we gave hampers out to 1,000 children and 700 adults," she says.

As a rule, most people who turn to food banks do so for a very short period of time.

"In 83 per cent of cases, our clients used food banks for five weeks a year or less," she says.

"It's not long-term provision, it's like A&E - we deal with emergencies."

Liz Jermy, manager of Oswestry Food Bank

Hardship can often be a vicious circle, says Mrs Williams, with short-term cash-flow problems preventing people from bettering themselves.

"For a lot of professional careers, you need licences, and if you don't have the money for the licence, you don't have a job," she says.

"Architects, for example, need to renew their licence every year.

"We had someone who had to turn down a job because he couldn't afford a car, he needs a car for his job. It's Catch-22 for many people."

While single men are still the biggest users of food banks, Mrs Williams says a growing number of families are also falling on hard times. Forty per cent of those using the Shrewsbury food bank had dependent children.

Mrs Williams says that at the height of the pandemic there was a significant increase in the number of donations, but that has tailed off in recent months.

"The week before last we had given out over 2,300 kilos of food, but we received just a thousand. We're running at a deficit currently," she says.

Shropshire Star editor-in-chief Martin Wright said he hoped as many people as possible would get behind the campaign at the end of what had been another very difficult year.

"Thanks to our incredibly generous readers, last year’s Feed a Family campaign helped some of those people most in need at what can be a particularly difficult time of year," he said.

“The circumstances, including the impact of the pandemic, meant it was more important in ever to help those families struggling to put food on the table.

“This year, as we emerge from the grip of Covid, those same pressures remain. The cost of food is rising and, while Christmas this year should be a chance for us all to get together and celebrate, there will be many who are worrying about how they can make ends meet.

“So once again we are calling on our readers to support our Feed a Family campaign. Please give what you can in the knowledge that your support will put a smile on the face of somebody this Christmas."

What to donate

Any Christmas items need to have ‘best before’ dates beyond December.

Some food banks will not accept festive items after a certain date to ensure it can all be distributed in time for Christmas.

The food must not contain any alcohol (bear in mind for mince pies, Christmas cake, Christmas puddings and chocolates including selection boxes).

Cupboard essentials

  • Breakfast cereal (preferably non-sugared)

  • Milk (UHT or powder, preferably semi-skimmed)

  • Jam, marmalade

  • Fruit Juice (long-life)

  • Small jars of coffee

  • Hot chocolate

  • Tinned meat (ham,corned beef, Spam)

  • Tinned ready meals (chilli, meatballs, stew)

  • Tinned vegetarian ready meals (curry, ratatouille, macaroni cheese)

  • Packets of mashed potato/tinned potatoes

  • Tinned vegetables

  • Tinned fish (tuna, mackerel, salmon & sardines)

  • Pasta

  • Rice

  • Pasta sauce/cooking sauces

  • Tinned fruit (in juice preferably)

  • Tinned rice pudding/custard

  • Healthy snacks (small boxes of raisins/apricots)

  • Biscuits, crackers, crispbreads


  • Deodorants

  • Shampoo

  • Shower Gel

  • Soap

  • Toothbrushes

  • Toothpaste

  • Sanitary towels


7, West Castle Street, Bridgnorth, WV16 4AB. Telephone: 07960 285520. Email: Open every Monday 10.30am to 12.30pm. Food can also be donated at the Co-op in Low Town, Bridgnorth Town Council offices, Charlie’s at the Old Mill, Barclays Bank in High Street, Sainsbury’s and churches in the town.

Church Stretton

Church Street, Church Stretton, SY6 6DQ. Telephone: 07561 693870. Open: Fridays 2.30pm to 4pm. Donations can be taken to the Co-op in Lion Meadow.

Food Share Project, Telford

Rampart Court Retail Park, Rampart Way, Telford, TF3 4AS. Telephone: 07775 505434. email Open: Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm, Saturday 9am to 4pm, Sunday 10am to 2pm.

Market Drayton

The parish rooms, Church Street, Market Drayton, TF9 1AF. Telephone: 01630 654007. Open: Tuesdays and Fridays, 9am to 10.30am. Food can also be donated at Asda in Stafford Street, Co-op in Loggerheads, Morrison’s in Maer Lane, Sainsbury’s in Shrewsbury Road, and Savers Health & Beauty in Oak Court.


The Royal Navy Club, Bellmans Yard, TF10 7AJ. Open Friday morning 9.30am to 11.30am. Telephone: 01952 811655. Email:

Oswestry & Borders

56 Beatrice Street, Oswestry, SY11 1QW. Telephone: 01691 671940. Email: Open: Mondays and Thursdays 11am to 2pm. Donations can also be taken to Sainsbury’s in Oswestry, Tesco in Ellesmere, St Oswald’s vicarage, and Stan’s Supermarket in St Martin’s. Many churches in the town also accept donations.

Shrewsbury Food Bank Plus

Barnabas Community Projects, Longden Coleham, Shrewsbury, SY3 7DN Telephone: 01743 343336 or 07421745857. Open for donations: Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays, 9.30am to 12pm. Donations can also be taken to the town’s branches of Asda, Co-op, Morrison’s and Sainsbury’s.

Welshpool & District

Church Rd, Welshpool, SY21 7LN. Telephone: 01938 536379. Open: 8am to 8pm, please leave donations under arches at the entrance; donations can also be taken to Tesco, Morrison’s and Sainsbury’s in Welshpool, and Tesco in Newtown.


Bargates Hall, Church Street, Whitchurch, SY13 1LR. Telephone: 01948 663943. Email: Open: Tuesdays and Fridays, 9.30am to 11.30am.