20,000 in South West turning to food banks to survive
More than 20,000 people in the South West have been forced to turn to food banks over the past six months, new figures reveal.
Data from the Trussell Trust, the country's largest organiser of food banks, shows 13,719 adults and 7,269 children in the region received emergency food between April and September.
This, the Guardian reports, equates to one in 120 children being fed with food packages in the trust’s south west region.
The figures, released to coincide with World Food Day, reveal nationally 109,294 adults and children in the UK received emergency food aid between April and September. This compares with a total of 128,697 in the whole of 2011-12.
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The 20,988 people in the South West turning to food banks over the past six months compares to 16,142 in the South East; 15,015 in London and 13,947 in the West Midlands.
The trust, which runs 34 food banks in the South West and has a further five under development, operates a voucher system, whereby care professionals such as doctors, health visitors, social workers and police identify people in crisis and issue them with a food bank voucher.
Those in need bring their voucher to a food bank centre, where it can be redeemed for three days’ emergency food.
Food packages consist of items such as UHT or powdered milk, soup, pasta, tinned meat and biscuits.
More than 90 per cent of the food given out by food banks is donated by the public.
Bath & North East Somerset Council Cabinet Member for Early Years, Children, and Youth, Dine Romero, visited Bath Foodbank earlier this year.
Reflecting on the figures released today, Councillor Dine Romero, who is the also deputy mayor of Bath, said: “Food banks are filling a need, and it’s very said that the need exists. We are supposed to be one of the wealthiest parts of the UK but I know we have people locally who need to use the food bank to ensure they have a hot meal for their family.
“It’s a fantastic charity and a great thing to be even nominally involved in. I think it’s a shame that it has to exist but it’s great that it does.
“Sometimes with charities you’re not sure where your money is going, but I know that there are plenty of people that need to use the food bank and without it they would be in really appalling situations."
She added: “Many people think about food banks happening in other countries, but this is in Bath. It really does show the complete extremes that we have in Bath.”
Councillor Romero advised anyone in need to turn to a local agency or a church, who can put them in touch with a local food bank.
She also urged people to donate whatever they could to Bath food bank.
“This is something people need to know about” she said. “That extra packet of tea or beans will make such a difference to people with those needs”.
Trussell Trust, which has launched more than 260 food banks nationally, predicts it will feed 200,000 people between 2012 and 2013.
This compares to 26,000 fed nationwide in 2008-09; 41,000 in 2009-10; 61,468 in 2010-11 and 128,697 in 2011-12.
The majority of those who used food banks between April and September this year were aged 25 to 64, followed by 16 to 24 and over-65.
Most – some 34,606 - cited a delay in their benefits as the main reason for turning to a food bank. Some 18,451 cited low income, while 14,392 said benefit changes were the primary cause.
Less than 5 per cent of food bank clients are homeless, the Trussell Trust says. “Many are working families struggling to make ends meet,” it says.
To find out more, visit www.trusselltrust.org.