The chief executive of a Bury St Edmunds food bank has voiced concern for winter following a challenging and demanding summer.

Amanda Bloomfield, CEO of Gatehouse based in Dettingen Way, said she has seen an increase in people looking to use their food bank and Social Supermarket, but has also noted a decline in food donations meaning some services are proving difficult to provide. 

She is particularly worried as the winter months approach that rising bills and the cost of heating will mean more people than ever need help with food as well as the furniture, appliances and other household items Gatehouse provides.

"It has been challenging throughout summer, and of course as we go into winter that is a big concern to us as to how we will cope," she said.

"Along with other food banks we are quite concerned as to how long we can maintain the services we want to.

"It is sort of a pinch effect really because demand has increased and there are people that have always supported us who are struggling themselves now so they are finding it hard to donate as much as they would like to.

"Sometimes it is heartbreaking to see people who can't replace stuff that needs replacing." 

Amanda said the charity's free Warm Welcome cafe which runs every Tuesday is going well with good feedback, and wellbeing classes including chair exercise lessons are in the pipeline, as well as yoga sessions in October. 

East Anglian Daily Times: Visitors meeting Bluey at the arc Shopping Centre's Summer Show, which raised funds for GatehouseVisitors meeting Bluey at the arc Shopping Centre's Summer Show, which raised funds for Gatehouse (Image: Submitted)

A fundraiser at arc Shopping Centre's Summer Show on Wednesday, August 16 saw £1,200 raised for Great Ormond Street Hospital and the arc's charity of the year, Gatehouse.

Amanda said of the large donation: "The fundraisers that the arc are doing are just amazing - I am really pleased to be their charity of the year and it has been a really successful partnership with them.

"The money just helps top up those items that we haven't got and it is really important to get that financial donation as well as the physical food coming in." 

East Anglian Daily Times: The Summer Show included live music and gamesThe Summer Show included live music and games (Image: Submitted)

East Anglian Daily Times: The Summer Show event included a dog showThe Summer Show event included a dog show (Image: Submitted)

Gatehouse needs donations of tinned and packet food, as well as toiletries. Donations can be dropped off at the Dettingen Way centre.

Tansy Miller, east of England network lead at the Trussell Trust, which also runs food banks in the UK, said the charity has experienced a similar increase in demand over the last year. 

"Last year, food banks in the Trussell Trust network gave out a record number of emergency food parcels and it’s likely that more people than ever will need support this winter," said Ms Miller.

According to the Trussell Trust, they helped 324,477 people in the east of England in the financial year 2022/23, 131,482 of which were children. 

This is more than double the total helped in 2017/18, when 127,027 people in the east of England, including 48,310 children, were helped. 

Ms Miller said the majority of food provided by food banks is donated by the public, but over the last year some banks provided more food than was donated meaning food needed to be purchased to meet the "unprecedented rise in need". 

“Staff and volunteers are working tirelessly to ensure that emergency food and support continues to be available, and we encourage anyone facing hardship to contact their local food bank," she said. 

"But emergency food providers are not a long-term solution when people are going without the essentials in one of the richest economies in the world.

"That’s why we are calling on the UK government to create an ‘Essentials Guarantee’, to enshrine in law the amount Universal Credit payments should be at, the ensure that they cover the cost of essential items, such as food and bills.

"We all need peace of mind that no matter what happens to us – we will be protected."