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Food banks in high demand over the Christmas period

Duchess's Communty High School pupils handing over donations to Alnwick District Food Bank trustee Peter Sutcliffe.
Duchess's Communty High School pupils handing over donations to Alnwick District Food Bank trustee Peter Sutcliffe.

Demand for the Alnwick District Food Bank at Christmas rose by more than 50 per cent compared to the festive season in 2016.

In December 2017, it helped 36 adults and more than 40 children. This included special Christmas parcels helping 14 families.

Vice-chairman Chris Friend said: “To put the busyness into perspective, there was one week where we handled just over one tonne of food, received and given out.”

One of the reasons for this increase is because the project has specifically looked to support families with children on free school meals following a successful pilot scheme in the summer holidays.

John Knight, another trustee, said: “Including Alnwick’s Duchess’s Community High School and offering help to families on benefit more than doubled this demand compared to our summer campaign and widened the geographic area we supplied.

“The focus remained Alnwick and Shilbottle, but requests were also received from families in Belford, Wooler and Amble. In the latter case we contacted our friends in Amble Food Bank and asked if they would supply on our behalf which they kindly did.”

Maureen Buchanan, trustee, sees evidence of the difference a food parcel makes. One recipient told her ‘you have brought Christmas back to us’.

The food bank is well supported by locals donating food and by people wanting to help. Peter Sutcliffe, trustee, said: “We have fantastic volunteers who collect from the number of donation points in the town, sorting onto shelves and making up parcels.”

The organisation works closely with other food banks in the area in terms of stock which means that any excess will always find a home with a like-for-like organisation.

But while demand has increased, Chris believes there are more people who still need support. He said: “I believe that there are countless more people who could be accessing the service but choose not to. We need society to break down the stigma attached to poverty and as a community reach out to those on the margins and make a difference.”

To support the project or to find out how the service can be accessed, visit www.alnwick districtfoodbank.co.uk
Amble Food Bank – which serves the town and surrounding areas – was also busy over the Christmas period. It gave enhanced packages to numerous families, plus gave recipients gifts as presents.

Coordinator Bill Cruickshank said: “We tried to make it more festive for the people who rely on food banks over the Christmas period.”

He said that the delay in receiving benefits is a major reason for people requiring food banks. Contact Amble Food Bank by emailing amblefood bank@aol.com