Food banks see huge hike in need as stocks run low

NEED Portsmouth Food Bank project manager Martin Mant at the Kings Church in Elm Grove where the food bank is based.  Picture: Paul Jacobs (121541-3)
NEED Portsmouth Food Bank project manager Martin Mant at the Kings Church in Elm Grove where the food bank is based. Picture: Paul Jacobs (121541-3)
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THE number of people turning to food banks has more than doubled in parts of our area as families move closer to the poverty line.

New figures reveal that in Portsmouth, 1,012 people were fed by the city’s food bank in the first three months of 2012 – up from 637 on the same period last year – a 27 per cent increase.

The Fareham and Gosport bank saw a 49 per cent hike in requests over the same period, feeding 704 people compared to 371 last year.

And the Havant-based food bank at Portsdown Community Church, which launched last April, said it had seen a 63 per cent jump in users last month compared to the same time last year.

Martin Mant, of the Portsmouth Food Bank, based at the Kings Church in Elm Grove, Southsea, said the cost of everyday items is driving people into poverty.

‘Instead of things getting better, as we were led to believe, it’s got worse,’ he said.

‘I think it’s partly down to the continued recession and jobs not being available.

‘The people that are on low incomes are probably working full-time.

‘The reason they are referred to us is because they haven’t got enough money to pay their bills. Inflation is running high.’

Mr Mant said they desperately needed more donations as their shelves were running low on stock.

‘It’s slightly worrying that we won’t have enough food,’ he said.

‘We desperately want to carry on helping people and making sure that people are getting the help that they need.

‘Anything, no matter how small will make a difference. People shouldn’t think “it’s only a tin of soup” because every single thing makes a difference to somebody.’

Residents can only be referred to official food banks by councils.

Ruth Scott, from the Havant food bank, said so far this year, it has given out food hampers worth £3,425.

‘Our food stocks are getting quite low so we are looking at boosting them,’ she said.

‘Sometimes there is a benefit gap.

‘If circumstances change, their benefits are stopped straightaway and they have to wait weeks for it to be sorted out.

‘We can’t feed the whole world but we do what we can.’

Steve Dent, of the Fareham and Gosport Food Bank, added: ‘It’s very concerning.

‘We are feeding in the region of 100 more people each month than we were the same time last year.

‘We have seen a number of people who have lost their jobs and are waiting for the benefits to kick in.

‘That’s why we are here – to try and help fill that gap.’

FOOD BANKS

The Portsmouth Food Bank opens Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from midday to 2pm at the Kings Church in Elm Grove, Southsea.

The Fareham Food Bank opens Mondays and Fridays from 1pm to 3pm and Wednesdays from 12.30pm at Westbury Road, Fareham and Forton Road, Gosport.

The Havant branch opens Monday to Saturday from 10am to 4pm, closing at 1pm on Wednesdays, at the Meridian Centre.