SWINDON Foodbank will carry on under increasing pressure as the Trussell Trust, which runs foodbanks in the UK, announced that it has fed almost a million people in the last year.
David Hartridge, the project manager at Swindon Foodbank, said almost half of the 6,000 served in Swindon over the last 12 months came forward as the result of benefit problems and recent changes to the system, and the trend was likely to continue.
“We have been in existence for eight years and have seen consistent growth year on year,” he said.
“If there was not the demand for emergency food there would be no reason for us to supply it.
“From the beginning of April last year to the beginning of March, we have fed more than 6,000 people, which is 16 per cent up year on year. Other foodbanks have had stronger growth but they have not been going nearly as long as us.
“The fact we are continuing to feed more people indicates quite clearly there is still a need.”
While a number of factors contribute to food poverty, David said only a quarter were the result of low pay.
“About 31 per cent of all the vouchers are as a result of benefit delays, and a further 17 per cent from benefit changes,” he said.
“That means nearly half of all vouchers are given out as a result of something going differently in the world of benefits.
“Another factor could be zero hours contracts. I spoke to one person in the town centre who had been on a 40-hour job but is now not getting any work because there is none available to him.
“That puts him out of the benefit system and we had to help him because he had not eaten that week. That is what we are here for.”
“I am in contact with agencies across the town and the opinion is that the situation locally is not likely to improve in the forseeable future,” he said.
“There are likely to be further cuts in benefits over the next 12 to 15 months and there will be an increase in people who are unable to pay essential bills or buy food.
“That is not opinion, that is the result of conversations with Swindon Council and Citizens Advice.
“We will continue to meet the demand that the clients put on us as long as the people of Swindon are able to provide us with the food.”
Chris Mould, the chairman of the Trussell Trust, said: “In the last year we’ve seen things get worse for many people on low incomes.
“A more thoughtful approach to the administration of the benefits regime and sanctions in particular, increasing the minimum wage, introducing the living wage and looking at other measures such as social tariffs for essentials like energy would help address the problem.”