THE shocking levels of food poverty in the region has prompted the Lancashire Telegraph to launch a campaign calling on readers to back local foodbanks.
Campaigners have said youngsters in East Lancashire are going hungry and they have seen malnutrition in primary school age children.
Over the past two years the increase in the amount of Foodbanks in the UK has been staggering, with an average of three new foodbanks opening every week.
They aim to provide emergency relief for those facing financial hardship and work by relying on frontline care professionals, such as police, health visitors and doctors, to identify people in crisis and refer them to their local foodbank for support.
In the first nine months of opening, Blackburn Foodbank had fed more than 2,000 people and recently announced it had fed its 1,000th child.
The problem of food poverty is echoed all across the region, with Community Solutions Foodbank in Accrington and Burnley and the Raft Foundation in Rossendale also reporting rocketing numbers of referrals.
Foodbank managers report they regularly see three ‘types’ of referrals – those in short term crisis, those facing secondary pressures and help for people with long-term problems such as alcohol and drug problems. Here are some stories of people in those predicaments.
SHORT TERM CRISIS
According to the foodbanks the first category of people being helped are in ‘short-term crisis’.
This group may have been financially solvent enough to support themselves in the past but due to an unexpected redundancy, illness or divorce, they suddenly face brief financial hardship, perhaps for the first time.
One resident from Bacup, who received a food package from the Raft Foundation in Rossendale, said: “We were fine until I lost my job at the council.
“Technically, I was made ‘redundant’ but there was no redundancy pay.
“My husband is disabled and so all of a sudden, the two of us were on benefits. We managed to scrape by at first but then we were hit with two unexpected bills. Something had to give and we ended up needing the food package to avoid missing bill payments.”
Diane Mason, who works at Royal Preston Hospital, said she found herself needing emergency food from the Blackburn Foodbank after she was diagnosed with osteoarthritis. She was off sick for two months with half pay but found that this was not enough to cover the cost of mortgage payments and heating bills. The foodbank was there to help.
DRINK AND DRUGS
Ros Duerden, project manager, at Blackurn Foodbank said the organisation often provided short-term help for people with drug and alcohol problem. These clients are usually referred to the foodbank by the police or community drugs team.
They are often people who are trying to get their lives back on track and Mrs Duerden said that a referral could help with that and provide a real boost to people at a crucial time.
She said: “The community drugs team comments that the act of referring clients to the Foodbank often presents the opportunity to sit down together and talk about things like budgeting, diet and lifestyle choices, so it strengthens the relationship between them.
“People with addiction problems often live very chaotic lifestyles and so their circumstances change with alarming regularity.
“Usually, they are referred because there has been a change in their lifestyle which has forced them to reapply for benefits, which can then be delayed.
“We are here only as a safety net and can’t provide long term support for anyone who uses the centre.”
The third group fall into the ‘secondary pressures’ category.
This group refers to people who are earning a low wage or are reliant on benefits but have secondary pressures that mean their financial balance can be hard to maintain.
Their finances may be disrupted frequently by irresponsible partners, irregular work patterns and difficult family circumstances.
One user of the Blackburn Foodbank who lives in Infirmary Road said: “Me and my ex had a really bad relationship.
“Now we’ve split, we share custody of my little boy but because his official address is at his dad’s I can’t claim any benefits as a parent.
“I also work for a charity but because it is only voluntary I don’t get paid.
“When I told the job centre about my new circumstances they stopped my benefits for four weeks while they processed it “ I don’t understand how they can do this to me. My little boy still lives with me three or four days a week, so it’s not like I don’t have to feed or support him and I have no one else to turn to. My mum died when I was 15.”
YOUR LOCAL FOODBANK AND HOW TO DONATE
THERE are many foodbanks across Lancashire and all need non-perishable, in-date food.
Blackburn Foodbank: Take your food donations to the Distribution Centre, Unit 5, Brunswick Street, on Monday, Wednesday, Friday from 11am to 2pm. Or call 07594 215356 to arrange for donations to be collected.
Clitheroe Foodbank: There are collection baskets in Skipton Building Society, Natwest and Barclays Bank, all Clitheroe churches and Clitheroe Mount. Or drop off donations at Trinity Methodist Church, Parson Lane, Clitheroe, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday 11am to 1.30pm.
Community Solutions Foodbank: St James’ Old School, Cannon Street, Accrington, or call 01254 352591 to arrange a drop-off in Burnley.
Darwen Food Larder: The Food Larder has collection points in town and local churches or drop off donations at the Darwen Community Furniture Project, Unit F, Watery Lane Works, Darwen, from 9am to 5pm.
The Raft Foundation: Drop off in many Rossendale shops, Haslingden Tesco, churches and schools. To arrange to drop off non-perishable donations or to give money for fresh food, go to www.raftfoundation.org, or email firstname.lastname@example.org St Philip’s Grassroots Centre in Nelson: open every Monday morning. Call 01282 877640.