Mazic News visited a food bank to understand how the center is coping with the cost of living crisis
Food bank staff and volunteers have told Mazic News they are facing “challenging times” during the cost-of-living crisis, where demand has surged since Christmas but donations are beginning to fall.
A volunteer, who asked not to be named, said the center was “really struggling”, while project manager Dee Ward added that “something has to change” to stop the huge need for these centers across the country.
She called on the government to provide more support to people during the cost-of-living crisis and work towards eliminating food banks.
It comes, as Conservative Lee Anderson has said, that in the UK there isn’t “this massive use of food banks”, but “generation after generation that can’t cook properly” and “can’t budget”.
Labor branded the MP’s comments “incredible”, while the Liberal Democrats said his remarks were “disgraceful” and “an insult to millions of hard-working people”.
Latest figures released by the Trussell Trust show nearly 2.2 million food parcels were distributed last year.
However, Ms Ward told Mazic News that figure doesn’t take into account all of the independent charities, community food centers and social supermarkets that are helping those in need – but if it did, it would show the “bigger picture” of how people are being impacted by the crisis.
Mazic News visited the Coventry Foodbank to understand how the center is managing the cost of living crisis, the impact it has had and what they see for the future of food banks.
How is the center affected by the cost of living crisis?
20 tonnes of food was distributed in Coventry last month and the center is currently trying to feed around 1,000 people a week.
It has the largest warehouse in the UK and is currently operating at full capacity.
Ms Ward said: “The surge in demand is starting to have quite an impact as food banking centers are reporting back to us that this is their busiest week.
“Every week is their busiest week, so the numbers are starting to go up.”
She also said that while demand has increased, the number of donations has decreased, causing further problems for the center.
“[The cost of living crisis] has impacted the level of donations received, and as people’s disposable incomes shrink, they are unable to give on the scale they used to,” said Ms Ward.
She added, “We don’t meet the donations for the number of people we have.”
A Coventry Foodbank volunteer told Mazic News that the center was “really struggling”.
She said: “We have seen a shortage of groceries lately when we were making the food packs for the families and single people – there seem to be fewer items in them.
“We’re a lot busier, we’re packing more packages, and we’re also seeing more going out in the van.”
Meanwhile, another volunteer said demand has “certainly increased since Christmas” with the cost of living crisis.
He added, “The amount of stuff we’re shipping has grown quite a bit, and the volume of donations has also decreased a bit.”
Not only has the cost of living impacted the food bank, Ms Ward told Mazic News that the war in Ukraine has also put pressure on demand.
She said a lot of food is going to Ukraine instead of to food banks, and while the “huge” donations are important, they have a “knock-on effect” to the pressure the center is already facing.
How is the center doing?
Ms Ward said the center “supports those who are in absolute crisis and those who have been left behind by the systems that have been put in place where it currently does not cover the cost of living”.
She added that the center “needs to support them to get through those few days and weeks when they’re out of money.”
The Halo Center is the main food distribution point in Coventry, where all donations are delivered, sorted and packed into food parcels.
“These packages are then shipped to all open food bank dispensaries every day,” she said.
During the cost-of-living crisis, Ms Ward said: “It was challenging.”
“But it’s about raising our voice against the cost of living and making sure that those who are really struggling, who don’t have the financial resilience to deal with those extra costs, are heard.”
How was demand during the pandemic compared to today?
In 2020-21 the Coventry Foodbank fed 34,500 people in Coventry, in 2021-2022 they fed 24,000 people.
However, during the pandemic, Ms Ward said there has been a “tsunami of food and volunteers” and there is not an area of floor that is not covered.
She said: “It was a one-time major response in need and donations.
“It’s been a really difficult time for everyone but there was a lot of food, the generosity of people in the community who donated food, businesses stepping up and supporting us.
“We were able to support those who needed it most.”
She added that the outpouring of support and generosity from the community “is unprecedented in anything we’ve seen before.”
What support do Tafel need now?
Ms Ward said food banks need donations now more than ever, not just at peak times during “goodwill holidays” such as Christmas, Easter and school harvest times.
She said: “If we don’t get the donations, we can’t support those who are in crisis.
“More than ever, we need people to help us shop with an extra grocery item and then donate it.”
She added, “If everyone could do that, it would keep us going a little bit longer.”
One volunteer said: “Even if it was just a can or a jar, it would make a huge difference.”
Ms Ward said despite the importance of food banks and how important their work is, there shouldn’t be any in the UK and the government should work to end them.
She said: “I don’t think we should need food banks that we have now.
“That needs to change”