A Birmingham foodbank is bracing itself for a major increase in demand as families struggle to cope with Christmas, low wages and the arrival of Universal Credit.
The Stechford Foodbank, run by the Trussell Trust, has issued an urgent appeal for donations of longlife milk and fruit juice and tinned meat, fruit and vegetables to meet the growing demand.
According the Trust,demand for its foodbanks in the West Midlands has soared in recent years - with 52,537 donations of three-day emergency food supplies handed out during six months between April and September this year.
This is compared to 49,365 handed out for the whole of the 2015-16 financial year. Benefits and advice agencies can refer people to the Trussell Trust foodbanks for help.
Faydene Gillings-Grant, manager of Stechford Food Bank, fears a further leap in demand as the controversial roll-out of Universal Credit, the Government’s new benefits system, continues.
In other parts of the country claimants have had to wait six or more weeks for their benefits to arrive leaving them to borrow money, watch their debt pile up while falling into rent arrears and facing possible eviction.
She said: “It’s really worrying that we are still seeing an increase in need for emergency food across the West Midlands.
“Every week people are referred to us after something unavoidable - like illness, a delayed benefit payment or an unexpected bill - means there’s no money for food.
“It’s only with local people’s help that we’re able to provide vital support when it matters most, and whilst we hope one day there’ll be no need for our work, until that day comes we’ll be working hard to help prevent people going hungry.
“Thank you so much to everyone who already donates time, food and money to help local people. If you’re not already involved, we’d love to hear from you.”
Stechford Foodbank welcomes any new offers of help from local agencies, charities or community groups.
Mark Ward, Interim Chief Executive at The Trussell Trust, said: “We are seeing soaring demand at foodbanks across the UK. Our network is working hard to stop people going hungry but the simple truth is that, even with the enormous generosity of our donors and volunteers, we’re concerned foodbanks could struggle to meet demand this winter if critical changes to benefit delivery aren’t made now.
“People cannot be left for weeks without any income, and when that income does come, it must keep pace with living costs – foodbanks cannot be relied upon to pick up the pieces. Without urgent action from policy-makers and even more generous practical support from the public, we don’t know how foodbanks are going to stop families and children going hungry this Christmas.”
The Department for Work and Pensions insist that people on Universal Credit will not have to wait for funds.
A DWP spokesperson said: “The reasons for food bank use are wide and complex, and to link it to any one issue would be misleading.
“We’re clear that advance payments are widely available from the start of anyone’s UC claim, and urgent cases are fast-tracked so no one should be without funds. We know the majority of UC claimants are confident in managing their money. Budgeting support and direct rent payments to landlords are also available to those who need them.”
The Stechford foodbank is collecting donations at Tesco Extra in Yardley and Tesco Superstore in Sheldon between Thursday, November 30 and Saturday, December 2 (10am-8pm).
Alternatively to arrange a donation or volunteer to help please email firstname.lastname@example.org.