Food bank donations to ‘fall by a quarter’ as Asda pulls collection points
15:32 18 February 2016
Food bank volunteers fear donations could fall by as much as 25% after a supermarket chain decided to remove permanent collection points from its stores.
Stowmarket Food Bank said it faced increasing demand from people in need of essential supplies – but could lose between three and four tonnes of produce donated each year at Asda.
Bosses made the decision following a review of the firm’s community programme – as a result of which, they said more money would be invested into local causes through the Asda Foundation.
Although charity collections can still be made in stores, shoppers will no longer be able to leave food donations in unmanned trolleys.
Pastor Mike Smith, who runs Stowmarket Food Bank from Hillside Community Centre, said the news had completed a double blow, after last month’s announcement that another collection point would be lost with the closure of Morrisons in April.
He said: “It’s a double whammy for a cause that is as worthy as it’s ever been.
“They said charities would still be allowed to collect, but for the moment, we’ve received no permission allowing us to go in.
“Meanwhile, demand for services increases. We would normally expect to take out one tonne of food per month. In January, we delivered 1.9 tonnes.
“Our food goes out through referral agencies, so we know that everyone is in genuine need.”
Last week, Stowmarket Food Bank revealed that due to unprecedented demand, it was three weeks from having empty shelves. Mr Smith said food bank volunteers in Sudbury donated 240 kilos of goods to help replenish stocks.
“We were short of stock before this news broke,” he said. “We are resourceful, in that we have friends and will shake every tree in order to support the needs of the community.”
John Matthissen, Green party councillor for Mid Suffolk, worries the introduction of a single monthly payment for people on low income or out of work could see food bank demand increase.
“This is very disappointing news,” he said. “I cannot infer any good reason for it.
“The fact is, demand is not going down. If anything, with the universal credit system, there is less reason to think things are going to get better soon.
“The spirit of generosity is strong locally. This is obviously an ‘HQ’ decision, but I think there will be a head of steam and a national petition to cause a stink.”
Asda said food banks were still welcome to collect if volunteers are present to explain where donations go, which the firm claimed increases the amount of food given.
It said it was a leader in redistribution of food through its partnership with Fareshare and Company Shop.
A spokesman added: “Asda plays an important role in the communities we serve. We know we can make a huge difference to local charities, and our customers and colleagues are generous when it comes to supporting their local communities, which is why we try to make sure we host a variety of good causes in our stores.
“We’ve recently reviewed the Asda Community programme and are investing an extra £2m into local good causes through the Asda Foundation. We’re also introducing some new processes and guidelines to make it fair and consistent for all the great charities we support and to enable our Community Champions to make the best use of their time.”