Suffolk: Shock 400% rise in request for food bank supplies

Ann Furlonger, manager at Sudbury Citizen Advice Bureau

Ann Furlonger, manager at Sudbury Citizen Advice Bureau

New figures have revealed an “alarming” 400% increase in the number of people enquiring about emergency food supplies during the past six months

Stowmarket Food Bank

Stowmarket Food Bank - Credit: Archant

The figures, based on enquiries made at Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) branches in England and Wales between February and the end of June, revealed a four-fold rise in enquiries about foodbanks across the eastern region.

Volunteers at foodbanks in Suffolk, and staff at the county’s CABs including Stowmarket, Sudbury, Ipswich and Felixstowe, also confirmed the spike in requests, blaming changes to benefits, low wages and local job losses for the increase.

CAB national chief executive Gillian Guy described the rise as “alarming” and said that “a perfect storm of pressures” was increasing demand.

The charity has also warned that despite encouraging news about employment levels nationally, its bureaux are increasingly dealing with people who are in work but need emergency food supplies to get them through to pay day.

Manager of Sudbury & District CAB, Ann Furlonger, said there should be no need for foodbanks in modern Britain.

But she added: “The truth is that the combined impact of welfare upheaval, cuts to public spending, low wages and the high cost of living are putting unbearable pressure on many households, forcing them to seek emergency help to put food on the table.

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“The huge rise in foodbank enquiries in the past six months shows that despite good news this week about falling unemployment, millions are still facing hard times.”

Hazel, a volunteer at Stowmarket Foodbank which opened last September, said the number of people using the facility had gone up significantly this month with the school holidays.

She said: “We see people from all over the mid Suffolk area who have come to us via 17 different referral agencies including the Job Centre, the local children’s centre and the CAB. We see people of all ages and from all different walks of life, not just families, who are struggling to feed themselves.

“During the holidays, children do not get a free school dinner which puts an added pressure on parents.

“The benefit changes are also starting to take effect in this area so that will make a big difference.

“We have recently had several big employers announce they are closing down in the area. If someone loses their job, it can take months to get things sorted out and people genuinely can’t afford to put food on the table.”

A YouGov survey commissioned by the CAB showed that more than half of those on low incomes have had to resort to savings accounts during the past six months just to meet living costs.

Around 37% of respondents on low incomes said they had no savings to turn to in an emergency, and therefore no safety net when they run out of money.

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