Fears that food bank use could keep rising

Ruth Scott from The Beacon in Havant
Ruth Scott from The Beacon in Havant
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  • Major report looks at food banks acros county
  • Use has plateued but is still high
  • Demand is expected to go up with changes to welfare and benefits coming in
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FOOD banks are here to stay – that is the stark warning following research into the demand in Hampshire.

The Bill Sargent Trust looked at all 20 food banks across the county and carried out in-depth interviews with volunteers and the people who use them.

The alarming message is food banks are here to stay

Mark Mitchell

That included food banks in urban areas such as Portsmouth and Havant, as well as some of the more wealthier places in Hampshire.

Mark Mitchell is chairman of the charity’s trustees.

Yesterday, he held a conference looking at the findings of the report, called Between a Rock and A Hard Place.

Speaking to The News he said: ‘The alarming message is food banks are here to stay.

‘The demand for food banks will increase in the medium to long term in light of the changes to welfare and benefits announced by the chancellor last week.

‘The national minimum wage will not be enough to cover the loss of tax credits and the cap on benefits.

‘That loss of income for people who are already low paid, people living close to the edge, is going to make life much more difficult for them.’

Ruth Scott is the community manager of the Beacon Food Bank in the Meridian Centre, Havant, which helped 2,000 people last year.

Mrs Scott was on the steering committee for the report.

She said: ‘It’s a qualitative report, rather than quantitate.

‘We were able to get the recipients’ stories in detail – their real feelings about their situation and how they got into that situation.

‘We realised how important it is to remain independent because recipients already feel depersonalised by the bureaucracy. They value the personal, non-judgmental help we can give them.’

She explained the number of Havant recipients has plateaued but staff at the bank expect the figures to go up with the changes to welfare.

And as demand goes up, Mr Mitchell explained the logistics of running a food bank become more difficult.

They are run by unpaid volunteers without statutory help, often in small premises without the space needed for storage and to speak to members of the public.

Mr Mitchell said the report also highlighted the ‘shame’ aspect there is for people having to turn to food banks.

‘They are an absolute last resort,’ he said. ‘They are used by people in genuine crisis. They go with a high degree of reluctance.

‘For nearly everyone who uses them there is a shame barrier to overcome.

‘Going in and asking for free food is not something built into our DNA.

‘People who use them are genuinely in crisis.’

In most cases people must be referred to the food bank by either social services or housing associations.

And then it is not an open door. They are given about three vouchers a year.