Record numbers of people are being given a helping hand in the run-up to Christmas thanks to Community Solutions Food Bank.
Shock figures reveal the Food Bank, based in Burnley, is sending out around 200 food parcels a week – a number that has more than doubled since 2012.
Even more staggering is the fact that staff have received 3,998 new referrals in 2013 alone resulting in deliveries to 7,012 people – 2313 of which were children.
Changes to the benefits system, increased heating and power charges and spiralling bills are combining to plunge more and more families and individuals into the “food crisis” category. And now Food Bank organisers are appealing to individuals, groups and businesses to support the charity by donating money, food or volunteering time.
Mark Hirst, of Community Solutions, who manage the Food Bank, appealed for gifts of food and money to feed those in need and to give them a helping hand and put them in touch with specialist agencies.
“The problem is getting worse, there’s no getting away from that,” said Mr Hirst. “People seem to be living a lot closer to the edge now. Just one crisis can land a person in complete chaos. There doesn’t seem to be that buffer.
“We’re trying to reduce the number of people we’re helping, if that makes sense. We’re working with organisations and individuals to try to make sure they are getting the help they need long term. So, somebody who comes to us and needs help for four weeks; we want to get them down to three. That’s been our emphasis for the last few months and it will be heading into 2014.
“We will be looking at every individual person and finding out why they have got to a point where they need help from us.”
The Food Bank was started in January 2012 and in August this year delivered its 6,000th parcel.
In its first few months, it was receiving no more than 100 new referrals a month. That figure is now consistently touching the 500 mark.
And with huge numbers facing financial hardship as a result of today’s economic climate, Mr Hirst said he was still being genuinely overwhelmed by local people’s “amazing” generosity.
“The amount of food, money and time people have donated to get us this far is just incredible. Things are getting worse though so more is needed.”
The number of volunteers, who deliver across East Lancashire (although 70% of deliveries are currently in Burnley) has risen from 20 to 80 in the last two years but as demand continues to soar, so do the overheads.
The Food Bank operates out of a warehouse within town and costs £10,000 a month to run with lighting, heating, rent, admin and delivery charges proving a constant source of frustration.
“There isn’t any core funding and we’re negotiating with organisations constantly,” said Mr Hirst.
“We have to raise money or it will be difficult to keep running the project indefinitely, especially as the need grows.”
Anybody wishing to donate items, money or volunteer their time can do so by visiting www.csnw.co.uk or ringing 01254 352591.