'Unprecedented' demand for foodbank in Bury St Edmunds
A foodbank in Bury St Edmunds is facing unprecedented demand due to the school holidays and universal credit.
Gatehouse estimates it will soon have handed out 300 food parcels since the start of July – compared to 197 in July and August last year.
With increased demand and a fall in donations over the summer, the charity’s stocks have also been low and, although public appeals have led to donations, they are still in need of certain items.
Stocks do get low in the summer because people tend to think of the foodbank when it’s cold and nasty so donations do go down - Amanda Bloomfield, Gatehouse
Amanda Bloomfield, chief executive of Gatehouse, said: “Demand has been unprecedented – it’s the most we’ve ever seen for this time of year.
“We’re doing about 25 to 30 (food parcels) a week now.
“It isn’t all families, it’s also the effect of the universal credit. We had not seen a knock on effect until the last couple of months.
“Stocks do get low in the summer because people tend to think of the foodbank when it’s cold and nasty so donations do go down.
“It’s really to remind people that people are in need all year through. We’ve put out appeals for food and the public have come forward so we’re really grateful to the people who’ve donated.”
She added that the closure of Bury Drop-In for refurbishment this month will have a ‘knock on effect’.
Last year, a report from the All Party Parliamentary Group on Hunger estimated the loss of free school meals during the holidays adds between £30 and £40 a week to parents’ outgoings for one child.
Stowmarket and Area Foodbank is also seeing higher demand and lower supply.
Manager Mike Smith said: “What we’re seeing is usual for this time of year.
“Last month we delivered two tonnes of food . We have about two tonnes of food now in stock so we’re only four weeks from running out if the demand carries on the same.
“People have started giving and things are starting to turn around . We have another month or so to weather the storm.”
It is holding a holiday lunch club every Wednesday this month at the Hillside Community Centre, where the foodbank is based, as well as another lunch club on Fridays at St Peter’s Church Hall.
Both can be booked through Sunshine Children’s Centre, in Stowmarket.
Anti-poverty charity The Trussell Trust has called on the Government to unfreeze child benefits and change work allowances so families keep more of their earnings before Universal Credit payments are reduced.
Where extra support is needed, especially for families with children, I will make sure this is raised and seen to - Jo Churchill
Jo Churchill, Bury St Edmunds MP, said: "These figures are concerning and I take very seriously the welfare of families and children, especially during the long school holidays.
"The recent roll out in May of universal credit in Stowmarket, as well as the closure of the drop in centre in Bury St Edmunds for the month August, means it is vital we have an accurate understanding of the situation and the challenges it may present.
"The introduction and roll out of universal credit has been flexible to the emerging challenges of simplifying the benefits system for claimants.
"This aside, I will pursue these figures further and continue to monitor the overall progress of universal credit roll-out across my constituency. Where extra support is needed, especially for families with children, I will make sure this is raised and seen to."
Gatehouse is looking for donations of long life UHT milk and tinned food items.
Items can be taken to Gatehouse, in Dettingen Way, Bury St Edmunds, as well as at collection baskets at the town’s Waitrose, in Robert Boby Way, and Tesco superstore, at St Saviour’s Interchange.
Among the items Stowmarket and Area Foodbank needs are toilet rolls, jars of jam, jelly, sponge pudding, tins of rice pudding, jars of coffee and tins of meat.
They can be donated at the foodbank at Hillside Community Centre as well as Asda and Tesco, in Stowmarket; Co-ops in Combs Ford, Haughley, Elmswell and Needham Market and at Morrisons, in Hadleigh.