FAMILIES struggling to make ends meet has seen demand on Stratford Foodbank rocket.
And volunteers are being “left to pick up the pieces of a broken welfare system” says branch manager Marion Homer.
Since set up in 2013, the number of emergency food parcels distributed by Stratford Foodbank has more than doubled. Over 1,000 parcels were provided in its first year but the figure has now risen to nearly 2,300.
And this year a record average of just over 250 parcels a month were handed out – around 40 more than last year.
The Trussel Trust – the national foodbank charity – recently reported an increase of over 70 per cent in foodbank use across the UK in the past five years.
But Marion, who has been manager since 2015, said the increase was much higher for Stratford’s foodbank.
She said: “Parcels given for children has grown by a staggering 244 per cent over five years, and the numbers of single parent families in Stratford in receipt of a foodbank voucher has increased by 353 per cent in the last five years.”
Some have suggested the rise was due to foodbanks being more readily available in recent years but the recent national ‘The State of Hunger’ report indicated the demand reflected a genuine need due to a failing welfare system.
The Universal Credit system – which has seen different financial support combined to form one single payment – has been blamed by many for reducing and delaying payments.
Marion said: “Our benefits system is supposed to protect us from being swept into poverty, but the main reasons people need emergency food are because benefits are not covering the cost of living, combined with delays and changes to benefits payments.
“Stratford is not exempt from this situation. The fact that our town is showing an above average increase appears to be linked to problems surrounding universal credit. We have had Universal Credit in our area longer than many other parts of the country.”
The charity is calling on the next government to end the five week wait for Universal Credit, ensure benefit payments cover living costs and invest in emergency support for people in crisis.
Marion added: “We don’t think it’s right that our foodbank exists at all. We have a team of wonderful volunteers and many, many generous supporters and donors – and without them we couldn’t do what we do.
“But how can it be right that volunteers are left to pick up the pieces of a broken welfare system? Hunger isn’t about food it’s about people not having the money for basics – and that’s happening in our town right now.”
* Stratford Foodbank is appealing for food donations during the run up to Christmas including mince pies, Yule logs, small Christmas cakes, as well as every day items like tinned food, coffee and tea, washing up liquid and pet food.
A food drive is taking place today (Thursday) at Tesco in Birmingham Road from 9am to 5pm, through to Saturday November 23. Volunteers will greet customers with a list of items most needed by Stratford Foodbank, and collect their donations.
Otherwise, festive items should be donated by Wednesday December 4 and left at collection points at Tesco, Morrisons, Waitrose, Coop on Trinity Meade, Budgens in Bidford, Sainsbury’s on Bridge Street, Stratford Leisure Centre, and in churches including Holy Trinity.
Stratford Foodbank, based in a cabin in Tesco car park, is open Monday 5pm to 6.30pm, Tuesday midday to 2pm, Thursday 5pm to 6.30pm and Friday midday to 2pm.
Visit stratforduponavon.foodbank.org.uk for further details.