Demand for food parcels in Hampshire doubles as families struggle to survive

THE region’s foodbanks are reporting a shocking rise in the number of people relying on donations of food to stave off hunger during the pandemic.

Saturday, 14th November 2020, 7:00 am
Updated Saturday, 14th November 2020, 9:18 am

Since the start of the pandemic in March, Waterlooville Food Bank has seen the demand for parcels more than double as families look to put food on the table.

Deborah Dark, who runs the support service out of Wecock Church, said: ‘We are providing around 130 parcels each month which is roughly twice as much as normal demand.

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Deorah Black (centre), along with the mayor of Havant, Cllr Prad Bains, and other volunteers at Waterlooville Food Bank.

‘The demand is even greater during the school holidays such as the recent half-term. For example, this July when children were off, we provided 149 parcels compared to 48 during the same month last year.’

The demand for food has rocketed as more people have been made redundant as a result of the pandemic or struggled to make ends meet due to the reduced income of furlough.

This week the Department for Work and Pensions revealed there are currently 10,640 people in the Portsmouth City Council area claiming benefits compared to 6,439 at the same time last year – a 153 per cent increase.

Last year the charity distributed 772 parcels which is on course to more than double to over 1,600 recipients by the end of the year.

Phil Rutt at the Fareham and Gosport Basics Bank

Deborah said: ‘We are now seeing such a diverse range of people asking for help. Many of these people are house owners who had good jobs who have ended up in this situation. They don’t want to be here but are having to swallow their pride and ask for help.

‘People talk to you about their situation and it really brings you to the floor. The carers of a 98-year-old woman came and asked for a parcel as they said she had nothing in her cupboards.

‘It’s shocking to think of a woman at her age in that position.’

It has been a similar experience for the Fareham and Gosport Basics Bank which also provides emergency food supplies for local residents. Although the foodbank remained closed during the first lockdown to protect vulnerable volunteers, the charity has seen a large increase in usual demand since reopening at the end of August.

Chair of trustees, Phil Rutt, said: ‘We are now seeing large numbers of families and people coming forward. In the last two weeks – particularly over half term when there were no free school meals – we fed around 270 people which is far higher than we would normally see.

‘Since the start of October we have fed around 400 people and many of these are people we have not seen before.’

Phil fears this demand will ‘only increase’ due to the economic impacts of the Covid pandemic and Brexit.

He added: ‘With redundancies, furlough and increasing number of people on benefits along with rising food prices, I think the demand is going to grow. I’m also concerned the situation could be compounded if fewer people are able to afford to donate goods.’

National food charity, The Trussell Trust, has said its foodbanks across Portsmouth and Hampshire are all seeing a large increase in demand.

Figures provided by the charity show their foodbanks provided 7,341 food parcels to families in Portsmouth during the first six months of the pandemic, 4,085 more than the same period last year. In East Hampshire, Trussell Trust foodbanks handed out 1,494 emergency food parcels over the same period - more than double the 603 given out during spring and summer 2019.

It’s a situation reflected nationally where there has been a 47 per cent increase in the demand for food support with more than a third of parcels going to children.

The charity’s chief executive, Emma Revie, said: ‘In the last few weeks we’ve seen incredible compassion and concern for people facing hunger following Marcus Rashford’s brilliant campaigning.

‘Vital local support must work in co-ordination with a national welfare system that is strong enough to act as a lifeline to anyone struggling to afford the essentials.

‘This pandemic has shown the unexpected can hit us suddenly, with devastating consequences for people’s lives, but it’s also shown we can make huge changes to the way we live and look after each other.’

Waterlooville Food Bank has experienced first-hand peoples’ ‘amazing generosity’.

Deborah said: ‘With Christmas approaching we expect demand to increase. We’ve had an incredible amount of donations. The pandemic has really brought to the forefront of peoples’ minds the help that everyone from all walks of life now needs.’

More information on how to help the foodbank can be found on the charity’s website.

Anyone who needs help from the Fareham and Gosport Basics Bank can contact the charity via their website or by calling 07708305795 (Fareham) or 07826305900 (Gosport).

Phil said: ‘If people out there need our help then we are happy to support them.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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