This month local grant making charity Community Foundation for Calderdale shares concerns about increasing numbers of people using food banks.
Figures released this week by the Trussell Trust, show an increase in food bank use across the country. Last year individuals and children in Yorkshire and The Humber received 69,280 emergency food packs.
However, a separate report by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Hunger, published last week, estimates that more than half of the emergency food aid supplied in the UK comes from independent food banks, which are funded by organisations like the Community Foundation for Calderdale. These food banks would not be included in the Trussell Trust’s figures – indicating that the real scale of hunger in the UK could be far greater.
The Community Foundation for Calderdale funds many local food banks each year. Last year alone our grant aid enabled more than 9,000 emergency food packages to be given out, and a further 2,000 Christmas boxes, containing essential items such as food and toiletries to be given to some of the most vulnerable families who were struggling over the festive season.
For example, the Community Foundation’s funding empowers local provision such as the Todmorden Food and Support Drop In and the Ebenezer Centres Gathering Place in Halifax, to help families and individuals across Calderdale. The service users are ordinary people, some of them are experiencing benefit cuts, sanctions and rising essential costs. However many of the people visiting the food banks are in work, but on low pay or employed on zero hours contracts.
We have also funded the creation of the Real Junk Food Project in Calderdale, which operates a café from Salem Mill Community Centre and serves meals made from intercepted food waste on a “pay as you feel basis”.
People can eat at the café regardless of income and donate money or time if they choose. The project is an inclusive space and welcomes people from all walks of life. However, it has been noticed that many of the people coming to the café are in poverty. This same trend has been observed at other Real Junk Food projects across the country.
These figures on local food bank use prove that the numbers of people hitting a crisis where they cannot afford to buy food are far too high.
More than 9,000 emergency food packages supplied by local food banks every year is 9,000 too many.
This situation must not become an acceptable state of affairs. Reducing the need for people to visit food banks will require a joint effort from the voluntary sector and government.