‘It’s a disgrace’ – Teachers resorting to food banks as cost of living crisis crunch bites

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The Father of a church and food bank in Bristol told the Daily Express that in 45 years of working alongside poor communities he’s never seen so much desperation. Food banks have seen a dramatic increase in demand for their services as the people who would usually donate themselves – including the middle classes – are now turning to them for help, while supplies at his food bank have fallen drastically compared to this time last year.

Sabine Goodwin of IFAN told the Daily Express: “Food banks across our network are struggling to cope with the levels of demand they’re seeing.

“Our members are supporting an increasing number of people who are accessing food aid for the first time or might previously have donated to food banks.

 Sabine Goodwin of IFAN told the Daily Express: “Food banks across our network are struggling to cope with the levels of demand they’re seeing.

“The Chancellor must urgently continue to tackle this devastating crisis through cash first interventions.

“Social security payments as well as wages need to match the rising cost of living to reverse rapidly escalating poverty in communities across the UK.”

When the pandemic first kicked in, food banks like the one at St Nicholas of RC Church in Bristol stepped up to help struggling families survive.

Communities clubbed together, with people collecting donations from neighbours and bringing them to the church to be distributed to those who needed them most.

Now, however, food banks are facing their worst nightmare – they can’t help everyone because they just don’t have enough food.

Father Richard McKay works with a team of volunteers to run the food bank at St Nicholas Church in Bristol and says he has never witnessed anything like this before.

He told the Daily Express he’s angry that things have come to this.

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“Compared with a year ago when our shelves were full of basics like tins of baked beans, pasta, rice and milk and whatever – now we have a short supply,” he said.

“We often have to go out to a supermarket or a cash and carry and pay for enough just to see us through the day with the basics.

“That’s not unusual – that’s happening maybe once or twice a week.”

Pre-pandemic, the food bank used to give out 20 food parcels a week, but that figure soared to 500 during COVID-19.

While the food bank is currently 40 percent down on stock compared to this time last year, some days all they have is “just a few tins” and “maybe a sack of potatoes”.

Church coffers are having to make up the difference as middle class families struggle to help out and even teachers are having to rely on food parcels.

“We’ve had teachers coming here for help,” Mr McKay added. “I find the whole thing alarming – everybody is feeling the squeeze.

“I know a lot of food banks are struggling because we all tend to help each other out.”

“Before we had to store our food in another part of the church because we had so much of it,” he added.

“I feel angry that in a wealthy society like our own there can be such poverty. There’s no doubt that some people will have to go hungry.”

Not only are Brits struggling to buy food – but they are struggling to cook it too.

An increasing number of people are asking Father Richard and his volunteers for tinned food because they can’t afford to cook from fresh.

“There’s no point giving them meat – they can’t afford to cook it,” he said.

It’s a familiar picture across other parts of the UK, with food banks in Durham, Lincoln and Penrith in Scotland telling a similar story.

Warm and Well, a charity in North Yorkshire has seen a shocking 97 percent increase in people needing support during January to March this year compared to the same period in 2021.

Compared to the same quarter in 2018 to 2019, it’s increased by 955 percent.

Charity workers report that people in employment are finding it difficult to get by as well as people who are out of work.

One of the charity’s advisor’s Mike May said: “We are seeing an increase in clients who have done all they can to budget and we can’t identify any further entitlement, but they are still having to rely on food banks.

“It’s frustrating for us when we can’t help.

As inflation continues to increase and rising bills are putting pressure on families across the country, the Trussell Trust said its network expects the need for emergency food to rise even more.

One food bank manager said: “The people who come in are telling me they’re scared.

“People are beside themselves about what the next six months will bring.”

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Emma Revie, chief executive of the Trussell Trust, said: “How can this be right in a society like ours?

“And yet food banks in our network tell us this is only set to get worse as their communities are pushed deeper into financial hardship. No one’s income should fall so dangerously low that they cannot afford to stay fed, warm and dry.

“There is still time for the UK government to do the right thing. We are calling on the UK government to bring benefits in line with the true cost of living.”

She said an urgent first step would be increasing benefits by at least the rate of inflation, to keep pace with increases in the cost of living.

“In the longer term, we need the government to introduce a commitment in the benefits system to ensure that everyone has enough money in their pockets to be prevented from falling into destitution.”

Tim, a 36-year-old man from London said he’s worried how he’s going to make ends meet despite being in work and receiving Universal Credit to top up his income.

He said: “I’m really worried about what the next few months could be like as the cost of living gets higher and higher.

“I’m trying to make the best out of the situation but have already had to use a food bank. I’ve also made the decision not to turn my heating on to save money and to go without certain types of food.

“For things to change, the government needs to increase the amount of social security payments so that everyone can afford to put food on the table.” 

Back in Bristol, Father McKay tells the Daily Express how this is the worst he’s seen people struggle in 45 years working alongside inner city communities.

As well as feeding the hungry, the church has a destitution fund where it uses cash donations to help people pay for gas and electric.

“We’re giving out £250 a week – that’s over £1,000 in a month and we’re seeing that it’s just not sufficient,” Father McKay said. “We absolutely need to prioritise the cries of the poor. A politician needs to come down here and just hear the stories.

“And when in the summer people are saying they can’t afford fuel bills and cook food, what’s it going to be like in the winter?”

A Government spokesperson said: “We understand that people are struggling with rising prices which is why we have acted to protect the eight million most vulnerable British families through at least £1,200 of direct payments this year with additional support for pensioners and those claiming disability benefits.

“Through our £37 billion support package we are also saving the typical employee over £330 a year with a tax cut in July, allowing people on Universal Credit to keep £1,000 more of what they earn and cutting fuel duty by 5p saving a typical family £100.”

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