A massive increase in food bank use has been predicted by the Trussell Trust in a new report. Analysis forecasts a 61% rise in food parcel distribution from October to December if urgent action is not taken now. The Trussell Trust also warns that 670,000 additional people will be classed as destitute by the end of 2020.
At the beginning of the pandemic around half of food bank users had never previously visited one, however, with furlough schemes ending, and unemployment rising to heights never before seen in the UK, this winter is likely to see even more people falling into food poverty.
One of the charities which has stepped up its response by increasing delivery of food parcels to people in need is the St Vincent de Paul Society (SVP), which has nearly 10,000 volunteer members across England and Wales.
Our Lady's & St Joseph's SVP group in Salford have been running a food bank for some time. In May, they provided food parcels to 1,700 adults and children, an increase of 400 since February. On an annual basis they give away more than £150,000 of food, much of which is donated by charitable food redistribution network FareShare, and supermarkets Morrisons and B&M.
Many thousands of people were unable to leave their homes during the lockdown and could visit neither food banks nor shops. The SVP responded by initiating a 'knock and drop' service, delivering groceries and other essential supplies. A member from the SVP Blackpool group said: "We currently take 27 food parcels out each week and we would like to increase this to include another 25 more lunch parcels for children and some basic raw ingredients with recipes for families."
"When we were told we would receive a food parcel," said one mother, "I honestly thought it would be like a packed lunch... I never expected what I received. It actually reduced me to tears. Through sheer gratitude, I may add."
In Newmarket, the number of vulnerable families supported by the SVP and its partners rose from just 13 families in the first week of school closure to 82 in July, including 213 children and 128 adults. Boxes of food and essential items are delivered to each family once a week by a team of 18 volunteers from all the churches in Newmarket.
Requests for help pour into the SVP's National Office from across the country. One example is a family of limited means with three school-aged children. Due to Covid-19 measures, they faced the additional cost of providing their children with meals, which would normally have been available free of charge at school. The children were excited to receive the SVP food parcels as these provided them with fruit, which the family cannot currently afford.
In April, the Food Foundation reported that 1.5 million Britons had not eaten for a whole day because they had no money or access to food. As the lockdown has progressed, the impacts of unemployment, furloughing and the economic slump have continued to take their toll. With the end of government support for furloughed workers looming, and the threat of a second wave of coronavirus, many families will remain dependent on help for some time to come.
The SVP confirms it is seeing a rise in poverty in the communities in which it works. The group in Hull expects to have to support at least 35-40 families on an ongoing basis. Meanwhile, Michael, an SVP member in Exeter, says: "Our purpose is to tackle poverty in all its forms through the provision of practical assistance to those in need. Those needs post Covid-19 will emerge from a number of different circumstances, such as lost employment, risk of losing a home, loss of family and friends, and ill health, both physical and mental. We need to be ready to offer help."
SVP Chief Executive Officer, Elizabeth Palmer, said: "The Trussell Trust's predicted rise in food bank use has brought into sharp focus the urgent need for support for the poorest in our society. The financial, emotional and health fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic has dragged many thousands of people below the poverty line. The practical support, understanding and friendship offered by SVP members has never been more important to this country."
She continues: "I urge anyone who can offer support to turn your concern into action by joining your local SVP group, donating or raising money for those in desperate need in your local communities."
SVP in England and Wales - www.svp.org.uk
Trussell Trust - www.trusselltrust.org
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