North East foodbank workers having to drive hundreds of miles to meet demand for parcels

Foodbanks in the North are so desperate for supplies they are having to travel hundreds of miles South to collect parcels.

One bank in the region needs a staggering four tonnes of food every week just to meet the massive demand in the run up to Christmas.

While another is even handing out hot water bottles and thick coats in a bid to keep children warm this winter.

The Sunday Sun newspaper has joined forces with foodbank charity The Trussell Trust to help boost stocks and make sure everyone can enjoy the festive season.

Matthew King, assistant manager at Newcastle’s West End Food Bank, the busiest in the UK, said:

“We’re at the stage now where we are having to drive to places like Surrey and Sussex just to pick up parcels to help meet the demand.

“We have a shortage up here at the minute so we’ve been driving down South to stock up and bring the food back up.

“Last week we gave out 300 parcels of food and this is increasing as we get deeper into winter.

“All contributions would be gratefully received.”

Mr King said they are currently only able to meet the demand by looking outside the North East.

He added:

“We estimate we will have fed 55,000 mouths by the time this year ends.

“We are the busiest foodbank in the country, mainly because of the large areas of poverty we have here in the parts of the West End of Newcastle.”

Now, we are urging people right across the North to pack a food parcel and hand it in to their local foodbank in the coming weeks.

Nigel Perrott is from Middlesbrough Foodbank.

He said:

“We often find it’s that period right after Christmas when there’s a real shortage.

“In the run up to the festive season people can be very generous and helpful but, once that Christmas spirit has gone, it becomes harder to meet the demand.”

Jill Coyle, from Billingham and Stockton Foodbank, said they were also taking in items like hot water bottles and children’s winter coats.

She added:

“We’ve seen children coming in with flimsy clothing on and, of course, it’s getting much colder now.

“People have been so generous in the run up to Christmas, but there is always that demand for more.”

Figures released by the Trussell Trust, which runs foodbanks across the North, show that between April and September 2014, over 25,000 people were helped by the charity’s Gateshead, Newcastle East and Newcastle West End food banks alone.

That breaks down to 4,289 a month – more than treble the 1,316 people per month in Newcastle and Gateshead who accessed a foodbank in the nine month period between April 2013 and December 2013.

Meanwhile a further 912 were catered for at Middlesbrough’s foodbank during the six-month period.

Critics of the Government’s welfare reforms claim organisations like the Trussell Trust are becoming an unacknowledged and unpaid part of the welfare system.

Changes to benefits since 2012 include raising the minimum job seekers’ sanction from one to four weeks and the start of the so-called “bedroom tax”.

Mr King said there were no signs of the demand for foodbanks slowing.

He added:

“Everyone who comes here has been assessed, it’s not just like people are walking in off the street.

“They have perhaps received vouchers from health workers, school liaison officers, Citizens Advice staff or social workers.”

Naomi Stevens, from Durham Foodbank, said they have 26 distribution points right across the county.

She added:“There is always the need for more and we welcome any contribution people can make.”

Mandy Martin, of Chester-le-Street, County Durham, has had parcels to help get her and her two children through the winter.

Mandy, who has a three-year-old and a five-year-old, said:

“The hardest thing was to accept that I needed help.

“The changes to the benefit system have really affected how much money we had coming in so I felt coming to a foodbank might help get us back on our feet.”

Christopher Gallin,  who lives in Throckley said:

“The foodbank stops people from going hungry. They do so much for families who are struggling and provide hot meals to keep us going in the winter.”

The region’s foodbanks desperately need:

  • Tinned vegetables
  • Tinned meat
  • Dry pasta
  • Rice
  • Tinned fish
  • Dried milk
  • Tinned soups
  • Jam
  • Cereals
  • Tea bags
  • Biscuit and snack bars

How to give to foodbanks:

To find out about where to drop your food parcels off at go to newcastlewestend.foodbank.org.uk or middlesbrough.foodbank.org.uk or Billingham.foodbank.org.uk or durham.foodbank.org.uk

> But don’t forget, these aren’t the only foodbanks in the North East. There may be one nearer to wherever you live, and they need donations just as much.

Source –  Sunday Sun,  07 Dec 2014

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