Nourish, which currently distributes up to two tonnes of food a week to 150 households in the Tunbridge Wells and wider area, says not only are enquiries on the rise but the cost of providing food has also increased.
“The enquiry traffic has taken a dramatic increase over the last couple of weeks,” operations director Dawn Stanford told the Times. “We can stretch things but anticipate spending at least an additional £2,000 a week on food, possibly more as demand rises.”
She continued: “Donations have dropped too. Food donations were normally 600-700 kg a week from supermarkets like Tesco and Asda, and we are seeing a drop of probably about 300kg a week, although donations from Sainsbury’s have remained stable.”
According to Nourish, the people being hit hardest are those already struggling and the foodbank is now delivering food to some people who have had to choose between ‘heating or eating’ due to the rising cost of gas and electric.
“People need help for reasons including relationship breakdown and stress, but pandemic stress has been very tough. It’s long-term financial stress and there’s no end in sight,” added dawn.
“Even now, with things opening up, everybody is very hesitant because the job security is still not there.”
Although Nourish only accepts referrals, the process is important for connecting people with advisers who look objectively to ensure help comes from different sources, Ms Stanford stressed.
“You have to look at everything when you’re in crisis. We give people that breathing space.”
She said, agencies like Citizens’ Advice and the debt charity Crosslight Advice were ‘exceptionally good’ at making sure people get whatever help they were eligible for, not just food.
Despite being an emergency service – helping people to deal with unexpected bills, family breakdown and other crises – Nourish does not cut people loose after the emergency has passed, Ms Stanford said.
“Our aim is not to let anyone go hungry. It’s about scooping up these people and being there in the background. We will be there in the next crisis.”
Nourish Community Food Bank is happy to receive anything people can give, whether it is a tin, a pound or an hour, details of how you can help: nourishcommunityfoodbank.org.uk
What is the cost of living crisis?
Fears over the cost of living are being caused by stagnating wages, rising costs of consumer goods, and increases in energy tariffs, plus changes in government measures, the cost of living is set to increase sharply in 2022.
According to the government’s Office for National Statistics, the Consumer Price Index – which tracks daily costs – has risen 5.4% since December 2020.
Meanwhile, on top of already high fuel prices, the energy price cap, set by the regulator Ofgem, seems likely to be raised in April.
Also scheduled for April is a rise in National Insurance, which some charities have warned is a ‘perfect storm’ for struggling families.