The organiser of a food bank in Fylde says the level of hardship is ‘frightening’ and will increase further due to rising energy and food prices.
Diane Ireland, who volunteers at the Fylde Food Community Hub has highlighted how more people are coming through the doors and predicted the numbers could soar with rising energy and food bills. She said: “We have had more people through last weekend from Kirkham, and I think eastern European people. I spent £100 on meat and £90 on veg, wholesale, and everything went. Dairy and eggs is around £110 per week.
“There is a lot of hardship really. I think there are more coming through, definitely. I’m looking after about 16 families and they don’t go to the food bank.
“You get them on a rolling rota. Every four weeks, they get a fresh food parcel, and it’s 16 families, so I think it’s around 62 people.”
The prohibitive costs of transport and running a car are preventing people from even coming to the food bank, in some cases, she said, adding that she is having to deliver, and that many were domestic violence victims. “These people don’t come down to the food bank a lot are domestic violence victims, they have no transport.
“They can’t get there; everybody assumes people have got a car. One couple have a car and can’t afford to tax it, or insure it, so the car is sitting there, doing nothing.
“People say, why don’t they sell it, but if they do get back on their feet, they need the car. They live in Wesham; I have got six families on that road, on Sycamore Drive, which need help in Wesham.
“It’s frightening when you think about it. If you multiply it for a big town, it would be so many times greater.
The sky-high costs of childcare which ‘wipe out one wage’ are also preventing people from getting back on their feet, she said, especially for single parents. Diane, 58, added: “It’s all wrong; it’s all geared towards people sorting themselves out, and getting a job, and finding free childcare.
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“If they get a job and they have children, how do they afford the childcare? One lady said, my son’s starting school in September, so I can’t wait – the childcare is crippling me,
“People can’t get back working, because they have got to have somebody looking after the kids. And it wipes out one wage, and if there’s only one person earning money, if there’s only mum or dad, they can’t get more hours as they can’t afford the childcare.
“It’s a downward spiral – it’s one thing after another for some people.” She said the Fylde Food Community Hub is dealing with around 40 families a week, which would equate to around over 200 people a week and blasted the policy of some food banks which limited food parcels to three.
She added: “There’s too much watching and judging going on. It’s one thing I don’t do. I don’t judge anybody, and I give everybody at least two chances.
“If I stopped doing this, these people are going to suffer. They are not going to get this fresh food.
“Personally, I think there will be a lot more cases of people in need. Food prices are going up – people are not getting as much for their money.
“One lady who we took a parcel to in Lytham has two kids. She fled her husband, around three weeks ago, and is now in a hostel.
“When he wasn’t there, she got the kids and just went to a women’s refuge, where she stayed until they could get this property. She’s not got anything.
“She has been sorted out with white goods and a carpet by another charity, but she’s not got an oven. I have a friend who gave us some slow cookers, so we gave her that, and I got her some meat and fruit and veg and diary, so she can at least make something.
“The one thing that has struck me was that people seemed to be without hope, and without hope, I believe you have nothing, so I’m aiming to bring a bit of hope back into people’s lives as I feel these people have been forgotten by politicians and the agencies who are supposed to help them. The food bank is running low on supplies now, and any assistance or donations would be more than welcome.”
A government spokesperson said: “We recognise the pressures people are facing with the cost of living, which is why we’re providing support worth around £20 billion this financial year and next to help. This includes putting an average of £1,000 more per year into the pockets of working families via changes to Universal Credit, freezing fuel duties to keep costs down and helping households with their energy bills through our £9.1 billion Energy Bills Rebate.
“We have also boosted the minimum wage by more than £1,000 a year for full-time workers and our £500 million Household Support Fund is helping the most vulnerable with essential costs. Meanwhile, the Universal Credit system reimburses claimants for up to 85% of childcare costs, which is significantly more generous than the previous benefits system, with upfront costs able to be covered by the Flexible Support Fund for those starting work.”