Food bank volunteers say service is at ‘crisis’ point

The Waterlooville food bank  handed out 200 boxes of food for Christmas this week at Wecock Church - from left: Katherine Fenwick, Alex Read and Emma Clinnick     Picture: Malcolm Wells (171219-1324)
The Waterlooville food bank handed out 200 boxes of food for Christmas this week at Wecock Church - from left: Katherine Fenwick, Alex Read and Emma Clinnick Picture: Malcolm Wells (171219-1324)
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VOLUNTEERS say demand at food banks is spiralling towards ‘crisis’ point as they deal with record numbers of people in need.

Food banks across The News area are in the process of making Christmas collections for hundreds of families.

But as they praise the selfless efforts of the volunteers, they say poverty among the community is an ‘injustice’.

Carly Butler is the manager of Somers Road-based Portsmouth Food Bank, which held a collection on Monday.

The 35-year-old said: ‘Since I joined the food bank in 2012, I would say demand has doubled. It is a crisis and an injustice.

‘Monday was one of the busiest days we have ever had and the busiest Christmas here I have seen.

‘There is more than enough food in this city for everyone, which is why it’s so heartbreaking to see people come and ask us for it in this way.’

One volunteer said much of the rise in demand could be attributed to changes in people’s personal circumstances, affected by government austerity and benefit reform.

Phillip Rutt, of Fareham and Gosport Basics Bank, said: ‘In 2010, we took on about 800 referrals. In 2017, we have received about 2,300. It should not be like this.

‘We’re facing austerity and the price of food is inflating quicker than the average wage. People are skint.

‘Since the introduction of Universal Credit, we’ve heard of a huge increase in people turning to banks further afield for help. We would be foolish not to anticipate some kind of increase when it arrives here.’

Forced to turn to Waterlooville Food Bank three years ago, one mother-of-three praised the efforts of volunteers who handed out more than 100 Christmas hampers at the service on Tuesday.

Highlighting the plight she and some other users face, she said anonymously: ‘They are so kind. Before I knew about this, I used to not eat so I could feed my children. This box means I can buy Christmas presents for them this year.’

It was volunteer Debbie Darke who led the event, made possible by an £800 donation from Waitrose Waterlooville.

She said: ‘The team here is phenomenal – we’re one big, amazing food bank family.

‘When we started out 11 to 12 years ago, we used to help maybe one family a week – now we help 15. That’s an incredible difference.

‘It is sad to say there is a need for this – but at the end of the day there is.

‘We will continue for as long as we are required.’