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Friday, 24 October 2014

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Seven tonnes of food given to needy families in Barrow, Ulverston and Millom this year

SEVEN tonnes of food have been handed out to hungry families in Barrow, Ulverston and Millom since the start of the year, as shocking figures show demand at local food banks is soaring well above the national average.

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in demand Drop-in manager Joan Cockin at Barrow Food Bank LINDSEY DICKINGS REF: 50062107B005

A staggering 5,794 people in south and west Cumbria received three days of emergency food in the past 12 months – an increase of 287 per cent from 2012/13.

The figure is even worse than the national trend, which has seen the number of people using food banks increase by around 160 per cent.

Angry anti-poverty groups and many local volunteers blame the government’s welfare reforms for the rise, saying demand for emergency handouts has reached unprecedented levels.

Ann Mills, manager at the Barrow Foodbank, said hundreds of working families in the area were struggling to cope due to a lack of savings.

“We’re seeing growing numbers turning to Barrow Foodbank for help, which shouldn’t be happening in the seventh richest country in the world,” she said.

“But the reality is that life is very difficult for people on low incomes at the moment, and increasing numbers are struggling to make ends meet and are hitting a crisis where they cannot afford food.”

The Trussell Trust, which runs the Barrow Foodbank and its satellite sites in Ulverston and Millom, says the situation thousands of families find themselves in is “unfair”, with cases of parents not eating properly in order to feed their children reported across the country.

Benefit delays, food price inflation and rising energy bills have all been listed as factors behind the rise.

Nationally, the number of food parcels given out by the Trussell Trust in 2013/14 was 913,138. In 2010/11, the figure was 61,468.

Pastor Fred McKeown, of Millom Community Church, said families were increasingly relying on donations, but many residents were still going without due to the stigma people feel when asking for help.

He said: “It’s hard for people to come and face people and tell them that they have nothing.

“There is bound to be people going without because they couldn’t face people knowing they are going to the foodbank. If you have been working and earning all your life, it’s difficult.

“It’s the last option for a lot of people, but for some it’s the only option for them.

“We are in a time when people, especially in Millom, are needing more because of the change over in the benefit system and the delays in getting payments. That has caused harm and some difficulties for people.”

Since January 1, the Barrow Foodbank has given out seven tonnes of food parcels, which include items such as tinned meat, cereal, pasta and rice.

Families can receive nine food vouchers to use at the Barrow Foodbank from various agencies, entitling them to three meals for three days.

Mrs Mills added: “We are feeding an extra 100 people a month since the beginning of the year. We don’t feed people long-term as we simply can’t. The demand is huge.”

Allotment owners in Ulverston are doing their bit to reduce the problem by donating surplus fruit and vegetables to the local foodbank. The project, called From Fork to Spoon, will see growers donate produce later this year after the harvest.

Helen Bradford, local food grower and Movement for Change activist, said: “It doesn’t feel right wasting food when so many people are relying on foodbanks.

“We have worked closely with Mike Atkinson from Ulverston Food Bank, who informed us that although the foodbank can’t distribute fresh food within its parcels, they can put it out for people to help themselves to.

“Ulverston is sometimes considered to be a wealthy area where food poverty is not an issue. The stories we have heard from our community and from foodbank staff demonstrate that this is not the case.”

Yesterday, more than 40 bishops and 600 faith leaders wrote to prime minister David Cameron, demanding urgent action to tackle food poverty.

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