Food banks are struggling to keep up with demand during the summer holidays.
With children home from school and no longer getting access to free school meals, some food banks have already run out of basic supplies.
Supplies running low
The Trussell Trust is an anti-poverty charity covering a 420-strong network of food banks. David McAuley, the chief executive, has made a statement that some of their hubs are running low on supplies – dangerously so in some cases.
The Trust handed out 4,412 extra three-day emergency food parcels for families with children during July and August in 2017 than they did in the two months leading up to that period. This year has been a similar issue, although final figures will not be in until September.
McAuley quotes “Rising demand in the summer holidays as families struggle to get by without free school meals” as the main issue the food banks are now seeing.
There are around one million children who receive free school meals during term time this year. This means that now they are no longer receiving the free meals, and subsequently families who are at risk are more in need of food banks during the summer holidays than ever. While more people in food jobs are catching on to the need to send excess food to charities, even more still needs to be done.
The holidays are a tough time for families who are on lower incomes. Not only is it difficult to cover the extra needed food, but it may also be necessary to choose between paid childcare or time off work for at least one parent.
Call for supplies
A Welsh independent food bank ran out of supplies in the first week of the summer holidays. Basic supplies such as dried pasta and toiletries were cleaned off their shelves for the first time in the bank’s history.
“We got to a critically low level,” said Reverend Chris Lewis, chair of the East Side food bank at Mount Zion Baptist Church, in Swansea. “The absence of free school meals during holidays contributes to a certain amount of hardship and pressure on food banks. I wasn’t able to count exactly how many people came in on Friday because I had to go out and get a bag of large potatoes from off site to help with the demand.”
Lewis noted that his food bank had seen a 40% increase in referrals year on year, which he said was due to an increase in youth homelessness and asylum seekers.
Carolyn Harris, MP for Swansea East, was forced to launch a campaign in which she asked people from her constituency to bring in bags of food donations. She got a good response, which was a very welcome boost for the food bank at such a critical time.
“It’s nice, as an independent food bank, for someone to notice we’re here at all,” Lewis said.
If you would like to help, donated food as well as essentials such as toiletries are always welcome. You can look online to find your local food bank. Those who are in need of experience could search for interim food jobs with charitable organisations – this is a great way to add to your CV whilst also giving something back.
A Government spokesperson said: “We’re helping millions of families meet the everyday cost of living and keep more of what they earn. We’ve doubled free childcare to help parents into work, and continue to spend over £90bn a year on support for those who need it. Budgeting advice and benefit advances are also available for anyone who needs more help.”