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Poverty-stricken families flock to Exeter Foodbank in record numbers

By AWalmesley  |  Posted: April 18, 2014

  • Volunteers hand out food parcels to a variety of people every week. Photo: Martin Whitham

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MORE families across the city are being pushed into poverty with the number of people using food banks continuing to rise at a phenomenal rate.

Exeter Foodbank reported a sharp 38% rise in the quantity of children and adults receiving three days' emergency food over the past year.

A total of 3,981 mouths were fed through the facility, based at the Mint Methodist Church, between April 2013 and last month compared to 2,886 during the previous year.

The latest figure includes 755 children, according to the research from the Trussell Trust – the Christian food bank charity.

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Joy Dunne, manager of Exeter Foodbank, said: “The reality is that life is very difficult for people on low incomes at the moment, and increasing numbers are struggling to make ends meet and are hitting a crisis where they cannot afford food.

“We don’t think anyone should have to go hungry, which is why we’re so grateful for the incredible generosity of local people in donating food, funds and time to stop local hunger. Families, prisoners, students, people in work and those working equally hard to find employment, are being referred to us – because otherwise they would have nothing to eat.”

In the last year Exeter Foodbank provided 35,114kg of food – all donated by local people, schools, businesses and faith groups.

The rise in demand across the South West was even higher than the city, at 77 per cent, with 105,521 mouths fed over the past year compared to 59,532 in 2012-13.

Chris Mould, the Trussell Trust’s chairman, said: “It is shocking that we’re seeing rising numbers of people need to turn to food banks in 21st Century Britain. But perhaps most worrying of all is that the figures are just the tip of the iceberg of UK food poverty.”

According to the charity, the number of people in the UK receiving emergency help through centres jumped from 346,992 in 2012-13 to a staggering 913,138 in 2013-14 - a 163 per cent rise.

The surge in demand has been blamed on static incomes, low pay, rising living costs, underemployment and especially benefit cuts.

But the government said there was no “robust evidence” of a link between welfare reforms and the use of food banks.

Food banks provide short-term, emergency food for any local family or individual defined as being ‘in crisis’ with little or no food and money to buy food.

Those people must be first assessed by a frontline care professional who will give them a voucher to exchange for 72 hours’ emergency food.

The Trussell Trust saw a £50,000 surge in donations following a Mail on Sunday article that criticised the charity for ‘failing’ to run proper checks on people claiming food parcels.

Read more from Exeter Express and Echo

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