As temperatures plummet and snow falls, and as people’s incomes are stretched to breaking point by soaring food, gas and electricity costs, we’re seeing increasing need across our seven food bank welcome centres.
Last week alone we provided more than 300 emergency food parcels – higher even than in the middle of the pandemic. Four in ten food parcels were for children.
Local people and families were referred in hardship to us by many different local organisations, including Citizens Advice Wandsworth, South West London Law Centres, social prescribers and GPs, schools and housing associations.
We’re seeing teachers noticing children being hungry, and helping families access our food bank welcome centres. On Friday we met an NHS worker whose income isn’t matching rising costs and who had to use our food bank for the first time ever. We met a mother with a young baby whose husband works full-time, but after paying the rent on their small flat, the family is left with less than £400 a month for bills, council tax, gas and electricity, travel, food, clothing, nappies and baby milk, which isn’t enough.
Every day we meet people with disabilities and long-term health conditions which mean they can’t work at the moment, and their only income has to be from benefits, which are simply not enough to afford essential costs. Although the government has pledged to increase benefits in line with inflation, which we welcome, this doesn’t start until April 2023 – and it’s going to be a long, hard winter until then.
We want to say a massive thank you to each person and family, school, church, faith group and business who is donating to help local people at the sharpest end of the cost of living crisis this winter. Your support – whether through giving food or money, or donating to our Warmer Winter or Christmas Gift Card appeals – is making a real difference, as this message from a local mum shows:
Thank you. You have done an amazing job and if it wasn’t for the food and the supermarket gift card, the kids would go without. One family happy for Christmas. I can’t believe it! Please thank everyone so much.
Thanks to your generosity, as well as emergency food and essential toiletries, this winter we’re providing hot water bottles and blankets, £49 fuel vouchers for prepayment meters, and supermarket gift cards in the run-up to Christmas. If people need support to maximise their income, our Foodbank Advice Project advisers are on-hand to help people access benefits they’re entitled to, minimise unaffordable debt and access other grants that might help.
Our volunteers are telling people about local crisis grants from Wandsworth Council, and where needed, helping people apply online for one there and then. We’re also helping people access wellbeing support from our project with Family Action, and from Talk Wandsworth, as understandably, stress and anxiety go hand-in-hand with financial hardship.
One day we hope that food banks like ours will not be needed, because we all have enough income for essentials. But until then, thank you for your support. None of this would be possible without local people giving what they can to help others.