A FOODBANK official says more and more people in the Chester area are turning to his organisation in order to get by.
West Cheshire Foodbank, which serves the Chester, Ellesmere Port and Neston areas, has seen an enormous increase in demand for its services since it established in November 2012.
The Christmas and New Year period has seen hundreds of families pass through the doors of the Foodbank, with benefit cuts, low wages and changes in job circumstances being cited as some of the main factors behind people using the service.
“Since we began in 2012, we have seen a huge increase in the number of people who have been coming to see us for help,” said Alec Spencer, development officer at West Cheshire Foodbank, which is based on the Stanney Mill Industrial Estate, Dutton Green, Chester.
“Since April, 2013, we have seen numbers increase dramatically compared to the first few months that we were open.
“We had a very busy Christmas period, with more and more people turning to us for help.
“Families have come to rely on foodbanks as a way to get by and the situation is getting worse.”
During November 2012, the first month that the foodbank was open, 48 people passed through its doors in search of help while, 12 months on, 450 people turned to the service to help them feed their families.
Since opening, the foodbank has provided emergency food for over 4,000 people in the area, with over a third of those being children.
“There is a stigma attached to using foodbanks but the demographics of those who come to us for help are changing and we now help people from every area of Chester and Ellesmere Port,” said Mr Spencer.
“While changes or delays in benefit payments, low wages and debt may be the most common causes, we are seeing people from all different walks of life using our services due to to unforseen financial trouble.
“It is said that most people are only two pay-cheques away from being in financial difficulty, and many people who use our services had never envisaged that they would be needing the support of a foodbank.
“People who come to us are really struggling.
“There is a terrible sense of shame that they feel at having to resort to using foodbanks.
“They have come to rely on them and it is what keeps many families going.”
The subject of the increased pressure on foodbanks, and the work done by West Chesire Foodbank, was highlighted by Chester MP Stephen Mosley during a recent debate in the House of Commons on the issue.
During his speech in the Commons, Mr Mosley said: “We need a clear picture of the role and extent of the banks and we need to know who uses them and why.
“Then we can have a debate based on the facts.
“Otherwise, this important debate will always run the risk of being hijacked by politicians hoping to score cheap political points, which does absolutely nothing to help those in need.”
Mr Spencer agreed with Mr Mosley, saying that urgent action needed to be taken to tackle the root cause of why people visit foodbanks.
“While we are here to support those in the area who need us most, the issue as to why people need our services needs to be addressed and I support Stephen Mosley’s stance on this in the House of Commons,” said Mr Spencer.
“We have an amazing group of volunteers who work here but we are seeing more and more people come through our doors and demand is higher than ever before.
“If it continues to grow, there will come a time where we simply won’t be able to cater for the demand.”