Figures reveal how Alnwick Food Bank has helped hundreds of people this year as it gears up for busy Christmas period

As Christmas approaches, statistics show the worrying demand for food banks across north Northumberland.

Monday, 23rd December 2019, 5:00 am
Updated Monday, 30th March 2020, 10:05 am
Volunteers in Alnwick District Food Bank.

The Alnwick District Food Bank has helped over 340 adults and 300 children access food parcels and other vital services this year, figures which do not include December.

Clive Gibson, chairman of trustees, said: “Demand is increasing, especially amongst the working poor. It is tied into zero hours contracts and difficulties accessing benefits, Universal Credit in particular.

“Overall, the numbers speak for themselves considering we are a rural, supposedly ‘well off’ area.

“We are also only one of many such organisations that provide this kind of service so the bigger picture is even more worrying.”

A break-down of the figures reveals that 20 per cent of its support has been for young children, with 26 per cent of its help given to children aged 6-16.

“The number of children 0-5 is our biggest issue,” said Clive.

“At Christmas, as well as our normal clients, we will be supporting those families whose children receive free school meals.

We will be providing a food parcel to cover two weeks that will also include a goody bag, toiletries and a voucher for a local butcher.

“We will also be on call to cover any emergencies during the holiday period.”

Alnwick District Food Bank started in 2014, a spin off from the North Northumberland Food Bank created in 2012.

Run by volunteers, it works closely with health professionals, schools and others, including the Citizens Advice Bureau and Northumberland Emergency Transition Support, identifying need and offering help.

An important partner is the Salvation Army shop in Alnwick, which holds food parcels on its behalf and gives to those who call with an authorised referral.

“We can only meet demand through the generosity of donors,” said Clive. “Tinned and packaged goods can be dropped off at our collection points in supermarkets and shops in Alnwick but, please, no fresh or out of date items.”

Berwick Food Bank had issued 527 food parcels up to the end of November compared to 356 in the whole of 2018.

Kind-hearted local residents have also been making donations to Amble Food Bank in the build up to the festive period.

TUC analysis has also revealed a a 56 per cent increase in the number of emergency food parcels given to families in the North East since 2017.

The analysis uses publicly available data from the Trussell Trust to compare the number of emergency food parcels issued in the North East between April and September 2017 (27,151) with the same six-month period in 2019 (42,294).

TUC Secretary for the Northern Region, Beth Farhat said: “I have nothing but respect for the thousands of volunteers running food banks and donating to them on a weekly basis. However, a 56% rise in the need for food banks is nothing short of a moral catastrophe in one of the wealthiest countries in the world.”

“Austerity, low pay and insecure work are pushing working-class families below the breadline. And Universal Credit is failing to catch people when they fall.”

“People are fed up with a rigged economy that only serves those at the top. It’s time to put working-class families first. Let’s change our economy to make it fair again for everyone.”