IT’S a sobering fact that around 7,000 food parcels were handed to people who visited a foodbank in Newport last year.
Families, on our doorsteps, are going hungry because they can’t make it to the end of the week without relying on parcels to feed themselves.
And Newport is not alone. There are more than 200 foodbanks operating across the UK, with two new foodbanks being set up each week – like the one being planned by the churches in Caldicot and Chepstow.
In Newport, we have foodbanks run by the Ravenhouse Trust and King’s Church’s community project Jesus Cares, who distribute food parcels to social care organisations – we should praise the work they do.
Foodbanks (alongside the street pastor scheme) are hugely significant contributions that churches are making to the day to day life of our communities. Run by volunteers, foodbanks are testament to the good society we have here in Gwent, but are also a reflection of growing food poverty.
Everyone who needs a food parcel will have a different story. But it’s true to say that those in desperate need were often the homeless, perhaps those with drug and alcohol problems and asylum seekers asking for help, more and more families are now relying on them to survive.
Now, changes to the benefits system (which often leave people with reduced payments while claims are being processed), low pay and rising food and energy bills mean the cost of living is going up faster for the poorest households.
Who wasn’t shocked by the national newspaper survey last week which reported that half of all teachers surveyed admitted taking food to school to feed poor pupils and that 83 per cent of teachers reported seeing hungry pupils each day?
In Newport, those needing help are given a voucher by professionals from social services, midwives, and JobCentre Plus etc that entitles you to a food parcel.
Help is not unlimited, people are expected to use the help to tide them over, and to enable them to start to get back on their own feet.
Food is donated to the churches by congregations, individuals and also by Fareshare, a not-for-profit organisation I visited last month based in Cardiff, who persuade supermarkets and food companies to donate the food they can’t sell.
More people are visiting foodbanks every month. With no sign of an economic recovery these statistics will rise. That’s why King’s Church is planning to increase its distribution of food parcels from 800 to 2,000 per month.
If you can help or donate, please contact the Ravenhouse Trust on 01633 762999 or e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org For King’s Church, e-mail email@example.com or ring them on 01633 244453.