County food banks facing 'incredible strain'
Shropshire food banks are facing increased financial pressure this winter as they spend more to keep families fed in the county.
Jackie Jeffrey, chief executive of Citizens Advice Shropshire, said that food banks across Shropshire were under ‘incredible strain’ and that they were heading towards a ‘winter of concern’.
She said that the rising cost of living had driven up demand for food banks but also reduced the food contributions to the service.
Mrs Jeffrey said that Oswestry Food Bank was ‘on course’ to spend around £30,000 in 2023 which was up from £18,000 the year before and £7,000 in 2021 – an increase of more than 300 per cent.
Bridgnorth and Shrewsbury food banks were spending about £1,000 a week to provide food support.
Meanwhile, Church Stretton is spending £500 a week to meet its demands and Bishop’s Castle £800 a month.
Mrs Jeffrey presented a report to the Shropshire Council’s health and wellbeing board last week which had a list of recommendations.
She suggested that there should be an ‘effective triage’ system in place for those needing support and a ‘co-ordinated approach’ to support residents effectively.
Mrs Jeffrey said that some workers were ‘really struggling’ with the cost-of-living crisis and not able to pay their bills.
She praised Shropshire Council’s Household Support Fund – running until March 2024 following a £4.1million grant from the government.
Simon Whitehouse, chief executive of NHS Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin said that he was concerned ‘more for this winter than last winter’.
He said: “It felt as though last winter there was a public outcry in terms of the challenges that were there and there was much more public awareness and support in place.
“It feels that this year because somebody is saying ‘inflation is coming down and things are better’, I’m significantly more concerned about this winter than last year.
“Both in terms of what that means for individuals and decisions taken, but also what the impact that will be in terms of public sector demand that goes around that.”
Gobowen Food Bank was started during the Covid-19 pandemic by Brenda Cassidy and Kath Tinsley to help those facing financial hardship.
They faced closing at the end of September due to spending between £200 and £300 a week on food. However, financial backers have now secured their future until November next year.
“We’ve found some funding, but of course we’re always looking for funding,” said Mrs Cassidy.
“We do get people coming in helping us with small donations and it all mounts up.
“We’ve been pretty stable for a fair while doing about 28 parcels of food every week. We had a call on Friday for somebody who was desperate for food so that’s an extra one.
“I can foresee coming up to Christmas that we will increase in numbers.”