Donations urgently needed as users of Northampton food bank triple in one year

A valiant effort by 15 hard-working volunteers helped to give out 12 tonnes of food in Northampton last year.

Wednesday, 6th February 2019, 3:19 pm
Updated Monday, 11th February 2019, 9:42 am
Emmanuel Church volunteers handed out nearly 12 tonnes of food last year to feed over 3,000 people in this borough.

In 2018, 1,076 food parcels were handed out by Emmanuel Church, in Weston Favell, to people in the Eastern District of Northampton, plus people from further afield who make the round-trip by bus. Or on foot if they can't afford a fare - one man from Duston even walks to the food bank.

These parcels, on average, would have fed a family of three, which is 3,228 people for three days at a time.

This stark reality follows the roll-out of Universal Credit launched in Northampton back in November, volunteers say. Anyone applying for any combination of housing benefit, income support, jobseekers’ allowance, employment and support allowance, child tax credit or working tax credit will instead now have to apply for Universal Credit.

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Supplies are given out to people who are referred to the centre and who visit the food bank off their own back.

The all-in-one benefit, which was intended to simplify the welfare system and get jobseekers back into work when it was first announced in 2011, has led to more people being out of pocket in the parish and reliant on getting their food from the Trussell Trust food bank at the church.

Manager of the food bank Jo Alderman said: "Post Christmas people are struggling and the need is increasing. People are having to wait.

"They were getting their money on a weekly basis and they knew they were going to get their money.

"But now they have moved it over to Universal Credit, they are having to wait five weeks for their payment and they won't have any money for those five weeks as it's coming in monthly."

The food bank does receive donations from supermarkets, as well as pastries and breads from Greggs but is reliant on donations from the general public.

In 2017 four tonnes of food was handed out, almost three times less than the 11 tonnes needed to feed those who were living on the breadline in 2018.

Sadly, with this increase in hand-outs comes an urgent plea both for more food and more volunteers on a Friday, to help package the food.

Jo added: "We thought it would quieten down after Christmas but every week since we started back in January it has increased.

"The first week back after Christmas we gave out 19 parcels. That could be anything from one person to a family of nine.

Food bank manager Jo Alderman co-ordinates the 15 volunteers who pick up the food from the supermarkets, pack the parcels and hand them out.

"Then it increased to 28 parcels the following week, then 35 and last week 40."

While the the food bank is really appreciative of all donations, at the moment it really needs tinned meat and fish, granulated sugar, cooking oil, salt, tinned fruit, razors, shower gel and washing powder.

"At Christmas we were so busy,” she said. “We were still here at 4 o'clock.

“We had 76 people on the Wednesday and 36 on the Friday."

When the food bank started up in 2012 there was only three volunteers manning the office, giving out four parcels a week. In just seven years the hand-outs have increased by ten times the amount and volunteers have gone up by 12.

This foodbank uses a standard packing list for each emergency food parcel that goes to someone in crisis, to make sure it is nutritionally balanced.

Emmanuel Church rector Haydon Spencely said: "We have had people walk from Duston to here because they can't afford a bus.

"Of course they will walk miles to get three days of food - because they can only get here by walking.

"We want to be generous to people and make them smile occasionally. Everyone is worth being made to feel good, in my opinion."