Plea for help from Calderdale's food banks helping some of borough's most vulnerable
The heroic efforts of Calderdale’s food banks are ensuring hundreds of local people do not go hungry - but they need more help.
Organisations in some parts of the borough are warning the need for their support is increasing and say the help they receive from the community is vital.
The pandemic has hit many people’s finances and the imminent loss of the £20-a-week Universal Credit boost and recent removal of the cap on energy bills is expected to add extra pressure.
Hassan Riaz, one of the organisers of Halifax Community Fridge, said they have seen a rise in the number of people needing help and somehow need to find a way to meet that extra demand for food supplies.
“There are more people using the Fridge,” he said.
“Every single day, an hour before we open, there will be a queue of 20 to 30 people waiting.
“We’re helping around 50 families every day. The demand is growing.”
The Fridge, at Madni Mosque in Gibbet Street, started a year ago and is open every day, even at Christmas and Eid.
Hassan said the team there helps people from across the community - from pensioners to young people and single mothers.
They have received messages of thanks from some residents who say the organisation has saved their lives.
“In the last 365 days we handed out 100,000 items of food and drink,” he added.
With funding from the Department for Education’s Holiday Activities and Food Programme, and in partnership with the Community Foundation for Calderdale, Calderdale Council has been working with other organisations to put together a programme of events for schoolchildren during the summer holidays which include nutritional meals and healthy snacks.
Those who receive benefits-related free school meals are able to access the camps, aimed at helping keep youngsters entertained and fed.
Brighouse-based Focus4Hope is among the organisations supporting the campaign, working with ROKT Climbing Centre on a holiday camp there.
Louise Reed, founder of the team, said they see demand for their food bank fluctuate but she does not see them being able to stop providing food parcels any time soon.
“We support some elderly and vulnerable people who are too afraid to go out,” she said. “There are some who have not left the house for 15 months.
“There are people losing their jobs and being made redundant. People are struggling.”
She added the Universal Credit top-up going in the Autumn will hit some families hard. “When you’re on a shoestring, that’s quite a big chunk of your shopping budget,” she said. “It’s going to be difficult for people.”
Janet Garner, from Todmorden Food Drop In, said they too expect to see a rise in demand. “Prior to the pandemic, we averaged around 80 food parcels a week, plus additional supplies for families,” she said.
“At the height of the crisis we were giving out around 100 food parcels each week – our maximum was 124! In addition to tinned food we supply toiletries, fresh fruit and veg, bread and eggs and cheese. All of this takes a lot of planning and preparation in the week.
“We teamed up with Calder Community Cares who were delivering our food parcels to people unable to attend our sessions until recently when the restrictions were largely removed.
“We are currently averaging around 65 food parcels each week but expect this to increase significantly when the £20 weekly addition to Universal Credit is removed, and the cap on heating bills is raised.”
Food banks are in need of your donations.
Many ask for tinned food and other long-life items while others request money to put towards food parcels.
Food and drink items can be dropped off at Halifax Community Fridge every day between noon and 2pm or for more information call Hassan on 07790 758618.
Focus4Hope has a collection point in Tesco in Brighouse or you can find out more about donating online on the organisation’s website at www.focus4hope.co.uk.
Details about these and other organisations offering food parcels is available on Calderdale Council’s website.