Demand for help from foodbanks in double-digit increase across district

Foodbanks in the region have seen a rise in demand for the service in the last year

Foodbanks in the region have seen a rise in demand for the service in the last year - Credit: Archant

Foodbanks in Huntingdonshire have seen double-digit increases in demand for their services in the past year.

Officials at Godmanchester Foodbank, which is based at Godmanchester Baptist Church, said they had seen an 18 per cent increase in the amount of food parcels distributed this year.

In St Neots, the foodbank, which is situated in Eaton Socon and distributed in churches across St Neots, has seen a 22 per cent increase in demand.

The news come as the Trussell Trust, the organisation which operates both foodbanks, released figures last week revealing that there has been a 23 per cent increase in the use of foodbanks in the UK this year.

From December 2018 to December 2019, the Godmanchester Foodbank handed out 44,569kg of food. In St Neots 21,949kg was given out to people in need.

Since last year, the Godmanchester Foodbank has also seen a doubling of requests for support from other organisations that work with children and families in the area who are struggling to put food on the table.

Although based in Godmanchester, the foodbank supplies people from around the district including Huntingdon, Bluntisham and Papworth. They have seen an increasing number of people being referred from agencies based in Cambourne too.

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Peter Levitt, administrator at the Godmanchester Foodbank, said that, on average, people who are using the service have a weekly income of £50 after paying rent, and one in five have no money at all in the month.

Mr Levitt said: "The foodbank receives magnificent support from local people, local schools, churches and businesses through continued donations. We are especially grateful for the steady, day-to-day flow donations made at supermarket collection points.

"Special collections like the recent nation food collection at Tesco Extra and harvest festival donations from local schools, churches and individuals have been essential to our being able to provide the food support that local people need."

The foodbank works on a referral system, where people are given vouchers which can be exchange for goods.

Healthcare professionals, the Citizens Advice Bureaux, housing associations, schools and the Huntingdon Area Money Advice group can all give out vouchers, but Mr Levitt said that he has seen an increase in people turning up to the foodbank directly.

Figures in St Neots show that this year, 1,555 have used the foodbank compared to 974 in 2014.

The group in St Neots has said the demand for food is outstripping donations, with 21,949 kg of food given out compared to the 21,813kg donated last year.

They are now trialling a 'responder' scheme, where people will be e-mailed occasionally requesting specified food items to fill "an immediate need".

Figures released by the Godmanchester Foodbank, show that 48 per cent of referrals are due to benefit delays and changes, and 58 per cent are for people in temporary accommodation or sofa surfing.

"There are three drivers which often hit people simultaneously and leaving no protection from hunger and poverty. These are problems with the benefits system, ill health or challenging life experiences," Mr Levitt said.

"Please donate to your local foodbank as soon as possible, to ensure vital help is there for people pulled into crisis by increased pressure from heating bills, food and other essentials during the lead up to Christmas. Volunteers will be stretched supporting more people than ever, so the earlier donations are made, the more time volunteers have to distribute them to people referred.

"We can't thank local people enough for their support - we collected more than two tonnes of food in three days at the recent national collection - and there are so many more people who are working hard to collect food to help with Christmas hampers, alongside the 'normal service'. It is these donations that keep us going."

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If you would like to help produce the Christmas Hampers for the Godmanchester Foodbank please contact