Spike in foodbank demand across Norfolk and Suffolk expected this Christmas
PUBLISHED: 08:40 21 December 2016 | UPDATED: 08:40 21 December 2016
The festive season is an exciting time for many families. But for the increasing number of people who use foodbanks it can be a very stressful period.
SOPHIE WYLLIE reports.
Shockingly, across Britain there are 30 million people living below the poverty line at any one time.
And around Christmas, demand for food and basic household items from the country’s already busy foodbanks increases dramatically.
Nationally, over the festive period there is a 45pc boost in the number of food parcels given out, according to the charity Trussell Trust, which supports more than 420 foodbanks.
The situation is no different in Norfolk and Suffolk where demand for the three-day emergency parcels is as high as ever since they first opened about six years ago.
Between April 1 and September 30 this year 9,024 food parcels were given to adults and children in Norfolk, and 2,899 in Suffolk.
Jo Stevenson, East of England regional development officer for the Trussell Trust, which supports nine foodbanks in Norfolk and Suffolk, said: “At Christmas, you want festive food and to provide for children and it is very difficult for some to do that.
“There is a lot of pressure in the lead up to Christmas and we always see a spike in numbers.”
In December last year, East of England Trussell Trust foodbanks donated 11,490 food parcels, compared with a monthly average of 8,249 the rest of the year.
The charity is predicting this month could be its busiest to date.
Great Yarmouth Foodbank, run independently from the Trussell Trust, has given out 300pc more parcels since August this year.
Demand is also up 14pc at East Suffolk Foodbank in Lowestoft as well as 10pc at Cromer and District and Hunstanton and District foodbanks.
Low income and benefit problems
Low income is the biggest reason why people seek help, followed by problems with benefit delays and benefit payments.
Foodbank managers across Norfolk and Suffolk are reporting benefit payment delays of around six weeks because of universal credit roll out.
Changes in people’s circumstances can also cause major payment delays.
Mrs Stevenson said: “Most food-banks have seen an increase in referrals.
“Most people who come for help cannot put food on the table. People have often missed meals so it is a last resort.
“It is quite sad that in a developed country there are people going with-out food. It is shocking.”
Mrs Stevenson added across the East of England, from April 1 to September 30, there was a 9pc increase in the number of food parcels given out by Trussell Trust foodbanks.
She added anyone could get into a situation where they needed food-bank support, especially people on low incomes who could be “pushed over the edge” from an unexpected bill or sudden job loss.
A lot of people referred to food-banks from organisations including schools and the NHS are working with some receiving benefits or just missing out on them.
Anne Danks, Trussell Trust opera-tions manager for England, said: “No matter how hard some people work, they cannot earn enough to pay the bills.”
More families expected at foodbanks
Hannah Worsley, project manager for the Norwich Foodbank, said the charity expected to give out more than 1,000 parcels this December.
Mrs Worsley added: “We see more families in the run up to Christmas. There is more pressure for heating bills and food can get squeezed out.”
There is also added stress to feed families because children are off school which is why many foodbanks offer holiday clubs and Christmas hampers.
“There is a genuine extra need for foodbanks. It is incredibly important we are here. People phone the service in tears,” Mrs Worsley said.
Ella King, project manager for Cromer and District Foodbank, said it was “shameful” foodbanks existed.
She said: “We are expecting it to be our busiest Christmas this year.
“We have seen some families who are cancelling Christmas this year because they cannot afford it.
“People are normally very upset and embarrassed by the time they have to come to a food-bank at Christmas.”
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “The number of people in relative poverty has fallen by 300,000 since 2010, and reducing this further remains a priority.
Reasons for foodbank use are complex but we have a strong safety net in place for those who need extra support, including hardship payments and benefit advances.
“More than £90bn a year is spent on benefits for people of working age.”
Between April 1, 2016, and September 30, 2016, the Trussell Trust foodbanks in Norfolk and Suffolk saw the following increases/decreases in the number of food parcels given out compared to the same time in 2015.
■Cromer and District – 31.74pc increase
■King’s Lynn – 14.65pc increase
■Mid Norfolk (based in Dereham) – 18.37pc increase
■Norwich – 3.42pc increase
■Thetford – 18.65pc decrease
■East Suffolk (based in Lowestoft) – 32.16pc increase
■Haverhill – 23.31pc increase
■Waveney – 47.9pc decrease
■The Trussell Trust also support Hunstanton and District Foodbank but no data was available as it is relatively new.
■From April 1, 2015, to March 31, 2016, 277 tonnes of food were donated by the public to Trussell Trust foodbanks in Norfolk and Suffolk.
■In East of England, which covers Norfolk and Suffolk, 28pc of people were referred to the Trussell Trust foodbanks because of low income; 26pc because of benefit delays; and 14pc because of benefit changes.