THERE has been a “shocking” rise in the number of people using food banks – and those helping the needy in Dorset say the situation is getting worse.
A report published by The Trussell Trust, which runs food banks across the country, said that there had been a 163 per cent rise on the previous 12 months as rising living costs, low pay and welfare reforms hit more people.
A record total of more than 913,000 people received three days’ emergency food in the last year, with more than half blaming benefit delays or changes.
The trust now has more than 400 food banks across the UK.
One to open in the past year is Ringwood.
Peter Trebilco, pictured right, Ringwood Food Bank project manager, has been working on setting up a new distribution centre in Verwood to cope with demand. It is hoped that it will open by June.
He said: “What we’ve seen is an increasing number of people coming in.
“When we started off (in Ringwood), it was fairly quiet. The numbers have been increasing month on month.
“You don’t want to see them increasing, you don’t want to see people in desperation for food.
“This situation is happening and has been getting worse over the last few months.”
Claire Matthews, above right, runs an independent food bank, which feeds people at St Andrew’s URC in Bournemouth town centre on Tuesdays and Thursdays and at Cotlands Road car park on Saturdays.
She said: “They’re growing every week, the numbers. They’re growing dramatically; it’s hard to keep up with it.
“They say that the economy is turning around and yes, it is, but we’re also finding a lot of middle class people who have used their savings and have nothing left to get back on track with.”
Claire said use of her food bank had increased by 300 per cent in the 15 months it has been open.
“I can’t understand it in the 21st Century,” she added.
THE Trussell Trust’s chairman, Chris Mould, said: “That 900,000 people have received three days’ food from a food bank – close to triple the numbers helped last year – is shocking in 21st-century Britain.
“These figures don’t include those helped by other emergency food providers, those living in towns where there is no food bank, people who are too ashamed to seek help or the large number of people who are only just coping by eating less and buying cheap food.”
He called for “determined policy” to ensure that the economic recovery reached those on low incomes.
A letter signed by 36 Anglican bishops and more than 600 church leaders from all major dominations calls for urgent Government action to tackle food poverty.
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “We’re spending £94 billion a year on working age benefits so that the welfare system provides a safety net to millions of people who are on low incomes or unemployed so they can meet their basic needs.
“Even the OECD say there are fewer people struggling with their food bills compared with a few years ago, benefit processing times are improving and even the Trussell Trust’s own research recognises the effect their marketing activity has on the growth of their business.”