'We can see this through' say food banks ahead of tough winter

Roger Peppiat of St Neots Food Bank

One food bank volunteer and trustee is Roger Peppiat (pictured), who is helping feed the most vulnerable in St Neots. - Credit: St Neots Food Bank

Food banks across the UK may face a supply shortage this winter due to a plethora of issues, but for some in Cambridgeshire, they are confident that won’t be the case. 

The supply food banks may receive has been called into question over fears there will not be enough for families in most need over the winter season. 

Ely Food Bank, which boasts 40 to 50 volunteers, is one which has seen demand drop off this year, despite the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, a HGV driver shortage, Universal Credit cuts and Brexit issues. 

“What we’re seeing and the economy is donors have been giving less and that has been quite substantial,” said Cathy Wright, project manager at Ely Food Bank. 

“We are giving more out than we’ve been getting in, which is unusual. Usually, supply is far greater than demand.” 

Ely Food Bank volunteers

Volunteers at Ely Food Bank have seen a drop in demand from 2020. - Credit: Ely Food Bank

Last year, Ely Food Bank fed 3,936 people between April and October, an increase of nearly 1,500 people compared to the same time this year. 

It has also seen a decline in the number of donors during what Ms Wright believes is “one of the most challenging times” the food bank has faced. 

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“It’s more than just food that people need help with,” she said.  

Food parcel at Ely Food Bank

Cathy Wright, project manager at Ely Food Bank, said it has given out more than what it has received. - Credit: Ely Food Bank

“Demand is increasing, but I think we are at the pinnacle of it.   

“People may think they cannot afford to give to the food bank. One lady is giving once a week whereas before, it was six to eight times.” 

Chatteris Food Bank, which works in partnership with the Ely branch, has seen a similar trend since March 2020. 

In St Neots, however, there has been a surging demand each year and has appealed on social media and to partners when they have had food shortages. 

St Neots Food Bank volunteers

Eileen and David Crowe also volunteer for the St Neots Food Bank. - Credit: St Neots Food Bank

But it is planning to collect enough items for around 300 hampers to be delivered this Christmas. 

Project manager Adrienne Dunn said: “In the last year, we fed 2,583 people for a week each, a 45pc increase on 2019-20 and more than double the number of children.   

“We give boxes of fruit, vegetables and eggs to everyone who gets a long-life parcel, which the foodbank pays for and costs £7,000+ a year.” 

Food parcel in St Neots

Adrienne Dunn, project manager at St Neots Food Bank, said other items are given to those that receive a long-life parcel. - Credit: St Neots Food Bank

The size of food parcels may be more limited this winter, with less supply in high demand. 

But the challenge is one that can be achieved, says Ms Wright. 

“There are a lot of worried people that are looking for a quick fix, and we have got to show that we can adapt to people’s needs,” she said. 

“We’re going back to people getting three to four days' worth of food, but I’m confident we can see this through.”