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Cost of living: food bank faces soaring demand but drop in donations due to cost of living crisis

NationalWorld visited a food bank to understand how the centre is coping during the cost of living crisis

Food bank staff and volunteers have told NationalWorld that they are facing “challenging times” during the cost of living crisis with demand soaring since Christmas but the number of donations starting to fall.

A volunteer, who did not want to be named, said the centre is “really struggling” while project manager, Dee Ward, added that something “has got to change” to stop the huge need for these centres across the country.

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She called on the Government to support people more during the cost of living crisis and work towards eradicating food banks.

It comes as Conservative Lee Anderson said there is not “this massive use for food banks” in the UK, but “generation after generation who cannot cook properly” and “cannot budget”.

Labour branded the MP’s comments “beyond belief”, while the Liberal Democrats said his remarks were “disgraceful” and “an insult to millions of hard-working people”.

Recent figures released by the Trussell Trust revealed that almost 2.2 million food parcels were given out last year.

However, Ms Ward told NationalWorld that this figure does not account for all of the independent charities, community food hubs and social supermarkets that help those in need - but if it did it would show the “bigger picture” of how people are being affected by the crisis.

NationalWorld visited Coventry Foodbank to understand how the centre is coping during the cost of living crisis, what the impact has been and what they see for the future of foodbanks.

How has the centre been impacted by the cost of living crisis?

Twenty tonnes of food was given out last month in Coventry and the centre is currently trying to feed around 1,000 people a week.

It has the largest warehouse in the UK and it is currently at full capacity.

Ms Ward said: “The rise in demand is starting to impact quite heavily as food bank centres are reporting back to us that this is their busiest week.

“Every week is their busiest week, so numbers are starting to creep up.”

She also said that while demand has soared, the number of donations have dipped which has caused the centre more problems.

“[The cost of living crisis] has impacted the amount of donations that are coming through and as people’s disposable income is getting less and less, they’re not able to donate in the quantities that they used to,” Ms Ward said.

She added: “We’re not meeting the donations for the amount of people we’ve got.”

A volunteer at Coventry Foodbank told NationalWorld that the centre is “really struggling”.

She said: “We’ve seen a shortage in food lately when we’re doing the food parcels that are going out for the families and single people - there seems to be less items in there.

“We’re a lot busier, we’re packing more parcels and seeing more going out in the van as well.”

Meanwhile, another volunteer said demand has “certainly increased since Christmas” with the cost of living crisis.

He added: “The amount of things we are sending out has grown quite considerably and also the volume of donations has dropped somewhat as well.”

Not only has the cost of living had an impact on the food bank, but Ms Ward told NationalWorld that the war in Ukraine has also added pressure to the demand.

She said a lot of food went out to Ukraine instead of foodbanks, and while the “huge” donations were important, it had a “knock-on effect” to the pressures the centre already faced.

How is the centre coping?

Ms Ward said the centre is “supporting those in absolute crisis and those that have been left behind by the systems that are put in place where it’s not meeting the cost of living at the moment.”

She added that the centre is “having to support them to get through those few days and weeks where they haven’t got any money left.”

The Halo Centre is the main food bank point in Coventry where all of the donations are brought to, sorted and packaged into food parcels.

“Those parcels are then sent out every day to each of the foodbank distribution points that are open,” she said.

During the cost of living crisis, Ms Ward said “it’s been a challenge.”

“But it’s about raising our voice against the cost of living and ensuring that those people who are really struggling, who haven’t got the financial resilience to cope with these extra costs, are being heard.”

What was demand like in the pandemic compared to now?

In 2020-21 Coventry Foodbank fed 34,500 people in Coventry, meanwhile in 2021-2022 they fed 24,000 people.

During the pandemic however, Ms Ward said there was a “tsunami of food and volunteers” and there wasn’t any floor space that wasn’t covered.

She said: “It was a one-off huge response in need and donations.

“It was a really difficult time for everybody but there was a lot of food, people’s generosity around the community donating food, companies stepping up and supporting us.

“We were able to support those that needed it the most.”

She added that the outpouring of support and generosity from the community was “unparalleled to anything we’ve ever seen before.”

What support do food banks need now?

Ms Ward said now more than ever food bank centres need donations, not just at peak times during “goodwill holidays” such as Christmas, Easter and Harvest times at schools.

She said: “If we don’t get the donations in then we can’t support those that are in crisis.

“More than ever we need people to support us with an extra item of food in their shopping and then donating it.”

She added: “If everybody could do that then it would keep us going a bit longer.”

A volunteer said: “Even if it’s just one tin or one jar, that would make a huge difference.”

Ms Ward said despite the importance of food banks and how vital their work is, there shouldn’t be any in the UK and the government should be working towards their end.

She said: “I don’t think there should be the need for food banks that we have now.

“It has got to change.”