Foodbank usage rises in 1066 Country

Hastings Foodbank collecting donations at the Hastings Observer office. SUS-160501-094033001
Hastings Foodbank collecting donations at the Hastings Observer office. SUS-160501-094033001

The number of people needing emergency food supplies from foodbanks across 1066 Country has increased.

According to figures published by The Trussell Trust, which runs both Hastings and Bexhill Foodbanks, thousands of people had to access the service over the last 12 months.

In Hastings, 4,044 received emergency three-day food supplies, compared to 4,172 in the 2014/15 financial year.

But neighbouring Bexhill Foodbank has seen a rise over the last year, compared to the previous 12 months.

This year’s figures stood at 2,370 across Rother, compared to 2,017 in 2014/15 and 1,665 in 2013/14.

Simon Earl, manager of Bexhill Foodbank, said: “The figures speak for themselves. We have seen an increase in usage and I fear it will continue to go up this year.”

At the Hastings Foodbank, the top three reasons for foodbank referral were benefit delay, low income and benefit changes.

Over the last year, people have donated 34.8 tonnes of food to Hastings Foodbank and more than 50 people volunteer to run it.

As well as providing emergency food, the foodbanks provide essentials like toilet paper nappies and hygiene products to families who are struggling, as well as signposting them to other services in the area.

Many Trussell Trust foodbanks are partnering with other agencies to provide additional services such as welfare advice, budgeting help and debt support at the foodbank itself.

In the weeks to Christmas, community groups, businesses and individuals donated tins and packets of food to the Observer’s appeal in aid of the Hastings and Bexhill Foodbanks.

Chris Beveridge, from Hastings Foodbank, collected 274kg of food from Observer reporter Laura Cooke, who co-ordinated the appeal.

This donation was in addition to the 225.75kg of food the appeal was able to donate to the Bexhill Foodbank, which has sub branches in Battle and Rye.

Jeff Beale, Hastings Foodbank co-ordinator, said: “We welcome a drop in need for the foodbank at the moment, and really hope this trend continues.

“But 4,044 people in crisis who accessed the Hastings Foodbank is still too many, and more needs to be done so we can continue to see the need for the foodbank decline.

“It is all too easy when you look at figures to forget the real people behind the statistics. Recently we were chatting with someone in a supermarket queue and they remarked on the quantities of products we were buying.

“We told her the 28 bags of sugar and 41 cartons of fruit juice, 97 toothbrushes, 33 tubes of toothpaste, 88 toilet rolls and 14 shower gel were for people who use the foodbank.

“We are very grateful for the ongoing support of the community, and hope one day there will be no need for us in Hastings and St Leonards. But until that day comes, we will continue to offer the best possible service to help people facing a crisis.”

David McAuley, chief executive of The Trussell Trust, said: “The figures on national foodbank use prove the numbers of people hitting a crisis where they cannot afford food are still far too high. One million three-day food supplies given out by our foodbanks every year is one million too many.

“This many people needing emergency food must not become the new normal. I’m calling on the government, the voluntary sector, businesses and communities to work together to tackle hunger and poverty in the UK. This has to be a society-wide effort.

“Our foodbank network is already playing its part: many foodbanks offer additional services to help people break out of crisis, and if the promising new data science techniques shown in the University of Hull report are developed, we could use them to help tell foodbanks where to target resources and which groups in society are most at risk from hunger.”

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