Food bank use sees sharp rise

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FAMILIES left struggling to pay for food without free school meals in the summer holidays have been forced to turn to a food bank in Spalding for help.

The Agape Care Foodbank helped twice as many people in August than the previous month as the pressure of the six-week break took its toll on family finances.

Project manager Paul Walker said: “Since the start of the school holidays we have seen an increase in the number of families coming in because of the struggles with finances.

“They might be struggling with their benefits being cut or stopped for one reason or another, or they might have had a reduction in income.

“In the school holidays, the free school meal provision is not there and there is the added burden to buy additional food.”

In July, 45 referrals were made to the food bank in Haverfield Road. In August, that figure rocketed to 91, with 23 of those being families.

The volunteer-run project has been running since April to give three-day food parcels containing dried and tinned food to needy people.

“We had not anticipated there would be such a demand,” explained Mr Walker. “I spoke to those clients and it became very clear that it’s a common problem during the school holidays.”

Mr Walker said many of their clients find asking for help with food “embarrassing”.

He said: “We had one woman who, when we gave her a parcel, she burst into tears. She said she did not know that people cared about her.

“I think when people ask for food it’s not humbling but an embarrassing thing.

“We had some toiletries left over and I asked one woman if she wanted some toilet roll. She told me she had never known such generosity.”

People are referred to Agape by agencies such as Social Services, the police and JobCentre.

Stock levels at the food bank have taken a hammering as a result of the extra demand.

Mr Walker is asking shoppers to consider buying one extra item during their weekly shop to donate to the foodbank parcels.

It needs UHT milk; squash, pasta sauces, tinned sponge pudding; custard; tinned tomatoes; cereals; tinned rice pudding; tea bags; instant coffee; instant mash potato; pasta; tinned meat; tinned fruit; tinned fish; jam; packets of biscuits; tinned spaghetti; noodles; tinned vegetables; and snack bars.

Food can be donated at at St Mary’s and St Nicolas Parish Church, Lighthouse Church in Haverfield Road when the bookshop is open, and Sainsbury’s, where there is a blue wheelie bin with Agape Care Foodbank stickers on.

Anyone interested in volunteering for the food bank or who has food to donate which cannot be taken to collection points should call Paul Walker on 07588 866300.