Children fed by foodbank up more than 40% in one year
- Credit: Archant
Children are bearing the brunt of food poverty in Colchester - that is the message from one foodbank that has seen 41% more children using their services in just one year.
The Colchester Foodbank, based at Moorside Business Park in the town, is one of more than 400 Trussell Trust foodbanks across the UK.
Agencies like Citizens Advice and charities can refer those in need of emergency food to them where they can collect three day's worth of nutritionally balanced food.
The Colchester foodbank has seen demand for their services rise constantly since they were formed in 2008, but in 2019 they saw the biggest increase in their history - feeding 41% more children and 30% more adults than 2018.
Mike Beckett, CEO of Colchester Food Bank, said: "We fed more than 9,000 people across north east Essex last year.
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"The increase in the number of children fed was more than 40%, which is really scary.
"Children are the ones at the brunt of this poverty."
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Mr Beckett believes one of the biggest factors driving up foodbank use is the rollout of Universal Credit (UC).
He said: "We have stockpiled a bit because we knew where UC was rolled out, demand had increased by a third.
"Well it was rolled out here, and our demand increased by a third.
"Two-thirds of our clients have either low-income problems or benefit problems and the benefit problems are the five week wait for UC."
The Trussell Trust are currently lobbying the government to reduce the five-week wait for first benefit payments.
Mr Beckett meets clients of the foodbank every day and says while some are happy to chat and enjoy the sense of community at the charity, others are merely trying to keep their heads above water, surviving day to day.
He added: "When you get people coming in who are hurting and in pain and the reason for that is something easily preventable, it's very hard.
"UC assumes everyone can claim online, and not everyone can.
"If your partner clears out your bank account, takes all your tech and leaves your cupboards bare, you're going to be dealing with the emotional trauma of that and the practical reality of having no money and no computer and possibly getting into debt."
Colchester Foodbank also work closely with other charities to help people get into work and become financially stable.
Mr Beckett said: "Our mission statement is to end UK hunger starting with north east Essex.
"We want to close down to lack of demand but if you do the math, demand for our service keeps rising."
Prospective volunteers can contact the foodbank here
They are currently appealing for particular items as of February 2020, including long-life fruit juice, tea bags, small bags of rice, tinned fish, toilet rolls, deodorant, washing powder, cat food, tin openers and strong carrier bags.