Huge increase in people using Mid Norfolk Foodbank over Christmas period
PUBLISHED: 20:23 27 January 2019 | UPDATED: 07:36 28 January 2019
Changes to the benefits system are putting a "strain" on a Norfolk Foodbank which resulted in a huge increase in use over Christmas, its project manager has said.
Between November 1 and December 31, 2018, Mid Norfolk Foodbank, which has centres in Dereham, Fakenham and Swaffham, helped 644 people, an increase of 46pc from 2017.
Dave Pearson, project manager at Mid Norfolk Foodbank, believes changes to the benefits system added to the Christmas pressures resulted in the huge increase in demand.
He said: “What we found was a huge increase in the number of families coming in. We had Universal Credit being introduced locally alongside Christmas, the combination of those two really just swamped us with people coming in.
“We had people coming in who had been put on universal credit who were told they weren’t going to get any money until January and this was the end of November.”
Mid Norfolk Foodbank saw 2,264 people last year and handed out over 30 tonnes of food, giving out over six tonnes in December alone.
Mr Pearson said that thanks to people’s generosity, its vital work is allowed to carry on but the rolling out of Universal Credit, a controversial new monthly payment which replaces a lot of existing benefits, will continue to put a strain on Foodbanks.
He added: “The amazing thing with Foodbank is we have seen demand go up but we’ve also seen our donations going up as well. We just find that amazing.
“It will put extra strain on what we are doing but I think we’re geared up to cope with it provided the donations continue to come in.
“I think since Christmas it’s eased off a bit but we’re still busier than we were. We’re giving out probably half a tonne of food a week.
“The message that we would like to get out is just how thankful we are for what people have done and how they have supported us.”
Foodbank usage has been on the rise in the UK, with most recent figures between April and September 2018 showing over 658,000 people received three-day emergency food supplies.
Mr Pearson said: “You can look at the statistics but there’s a story behind each one of those. We’d like to get to the point where we don’t need to have a Foodbank but while there is a need we’re happy to help.”