FOOD bank use in Gwent has nearly tripled over the last year, with more than 15,000 users, statistics from two major organisations have revealed.

Figures were collected from national charity The Trussell Trust, which has seven food banks operating in the area and The Raven House Trust, another organisation which serves Gwent with outlets at Bettws, Caldicot and Stow Park.

From January to November, 2012, a total of 5,307 service users went to food banks. For the same period in 2013, the total rose to 15,081.

Three new food banks opened in 2013 in Chepstow, Newport and Pontypool.

Jen Taylor, project leader at the Eastern Valley food bank in Pontnewynydd, Pontypool, which opened in January last year and served 3,000 people up to November, said: “We have mixed ages and genders coming – it’s not just benefit claimants, but people on low income and zero hour contracts.

“People realise there is a place to come for help so the demand has grown. Some people haven’t eaten in days and are in a crazy situation by the time they get to us.”

Food banks rely on volunteers at their distribution centres. All food is donated, a large amount through supermarket collections.

Use in Abergavenny this year was triple that of the comparable time before, with around half being children. Kathy Medlicott, manager at the Abergavenny food bank, said: “We’ve seen an increase month by month from about June.

“We are noticing a lot more people coming in who are singles or couples, people who are sofa surfing or have nowhere to live. One of the common things you hear is a change in benefits is leaving them with nothing in the interim.”

Speaking in the House of Commons at the food bank debate on December 18, Jessica Morden MP for Newport East, referred to the increasing figures: “The truth is the proportion of people using food banks as a result of benefit changes is sharply increasing. The government have shamefully altered the form used by Jobcentre Plus staff when referring clients for food parcels by taking off the tick box that records that they are referring them because of benefit changes.

“No wonder the secretary of state can play down the fact benefit changes are driving the increase in demand, he stopped his staff collecting the data that prove it.”

Maggie Smith, trustee and manager of The Ravenhouse Trust, added: “The increase has been phenomenal. It’s staggering and quite scary.”


Trussell Trust Totals:

Jan – Nov 2012 = 3016

Jan-Nov 2013 = 9520

Ravenhouse Totals:

Jan – Nov 2012 = 2,291

Jan-Nov 2013 = 5,561