Bury St Edmunds: Food bank reports four-fold increase in parcels handed out

Launch of the Bury food bank last November.

Launch of the Bury food bank last November.

There may be some signs of economic recovery but another food bank in the region is reporting a significant rise in the number of food parcels it is handing out to the needy.

The Bury St Edmunds food bank, which is co-ordinated by the charity Gatehouse, has seen a four-fold increase in the amount of parcels it is giving out since the welfare reforms were introduced in April.

Families in Need (FIND), which helps people in the Ipswich area, distributed 542 parcels in 2011 but this rose to 1,988 last year – an increase of nearly 267%.

By the end of June this year, the organisation had already handed out 1,100 parcels.

Amanda Bloomfield, chief executive of Gatehouse, which supports vulnerable and disadvantaged people in west Suffolk, said they were now handing out between 15 to 20 parcels a week compared to three or four a week before April.

She said: “I think it’s because of all the benefits changes really. I think a lot of emergency crisis loans have been abolished since April and that’s had an impact on the amount of people accessing food banks.”

She said four out of every five clients seeking help from the Bury St Edmunds food bank were aged between 20 and 45 and tended to be working families on low incomes.

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“They are at rock bottom really when they come to us. They see no way out of it.

“Obviously with the school holidays on now families come because children are not having their free meal during the day - and there’s extra pressure to keep the children occupied.”

Jane Ballard, manager of a number of Citizens Advice Bureaux (CABs) in west Suffolk, said her team was seeing a similar sort of increase at the centres in Bury and Haverhill.

She said: “Lots of people have quite chaotic lives and you get situations like relationship breakdowns where people are responsible for children, but maybe don’t get the child benefit.

“There’s lots of reasons why people’s income is so close to the bone now.”

She said there had been so many changes at once, and not just with welfare reforms, but also the increase in food and fuel costs.

“I will say we are very concerned this is not all of the welfare reforms; there are more to come.

“And actually people are struggling now and how they will manage when further reforms come in I don’t know.”

Benefits had now overtaken debt as their main area of work at CAB, Mrs Ballard said.

To get in contact with Bury CAB visit www.burystedmundscab.org.uk

To support the food bank in Bury visit www.gatehouse.org.uk