Donations to food banks have decreased, yet the number of people needing their services is going up all the time. The Star’s Feed A Family appeal looks ahead to what’s likely to be a tough winter.
By David Tooley
A county foodbank has joined a national campaign to increase Universal Credit payments to at least £120 per week.
Oswestry Foodbank is a part of the national Trussell Trust network and they say the current level of £85 per week is not enough to pay for food and electricity with the approach of winter.
They are challenging people to try to live on that amount of money.
Liz Jermy, project manager at the Oswestry and Borders Foodbank, said: “A petition has been launched by the Trussell Trust and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation to guarantee our essentials.
“The £85 per week in Universal Credit is not enough. It does not cover the essentials.
“We are asking to raise this to £120 per week as a bare minimum. We want to work towards people getting out of needing to use a foodbank.”
Ms Jermy said last year the foodbank helped 7,887 people compared to 6,904 people in the year before.
“We’re now helping between 150 and 230 individuals per week, that’s 80-90 families,” she said.
The foodbank has been around for 13 years in Oswestry and they’ve seen demand increasing over that time.
“We have people who come in who are working but they just cannot afford the bills,” she said.
“Every time the cost of living payments are paid demand drops off, so we know it is to do with a lack of money. People do not have enough money.”
The next support payments are expected in October, which will give some respite but foodbanks are expecting demand to rise as the colder weather and Christmas arrives.
This year, although the unit costs of electricity and gas for heating will drop in October, there will be none of the government support payments that helped to the tune of around £66 per month at the end of 2022 and start of 2023.
This year the Oswestry Foodbank is projecting to have to spend a staggering £53,000 on buying foods, an increase from £30,000 last year, and £18,000 the year before that.
Ms Jermy said a small part of that increase could be attributed to people switching from making donations of actual food to money.
The foodbank has increased the amount it and others can help people but Ms Jermy said now the limits have been hit, and the only thing that can help people is to get more money coming in.
“We have a small number of people who are dependent on our services but they are all engaging and have maximised their incomes. They are still not able to make ends meet.”
Ruth Davies, coordinator of the Ludlow Foodbank, said they are expecting demand to ‘surge’ again after support payments coming in October run out for people.
They have a fuel fund that can help people pay for heating but only to the tune of £30 for one person but funds are limited.
“Things have steadied down in the summer but we are expecting a surge.
“What we have noticed is that when hardship payments are made we have quieter months.
“Another payment is coming in October but we think demand will increase again in November, December will skyrocket and January will be busy.”
Ludlow Foodbank will be hosting one of its Open Table Events at the town’s Rockspring Centre on Monday from 1pm to 2.30pm. People will be able to buy a bag of food for £1, have a chat and refreshments, and have their blood pressure checked.
People can also be put in touch with organisations that can help them, including a school uniform swap.