Bishop's Stortford Food Bank appeals for help as demand surges
Demand for help from Bishop’s Stortford Food Bank is outstripping donations for the first time in the charity’s history.
The organisation, which was incorporated in November 2013 and operates from the Methodist Church, South Street, is struggling to cope with a surge in requests for help.
Chairman Bill Macdonald said: “We are starting to see the effects of the increased costs of living on our work – with donations of food tailing off significantly, while the demand seems to be building. We are not seeing the 'quiet period' we usually experience during the summer months.
“Two weeks ago we dealt with over 40 requests for food – way more than normal for this time of year. This is consistent with the national trend.”
Previously, the food bank enjoyed ample support but Bill said: “For the first time, the quantity of food items donated at the supermarkets in Bishop's Stortford is falling short of the quantity we need to give out to people.
“Times are hard for everyone, including those in the community that support us by donating food items. This means that we have to buy more food ourselves, and as we already buy Aldi vouchers for people so that they can buy perishable items, toiletries and cleaning materials such as washing powder, this is going to have an impact on how much money we need to meet the increased demand.”
He said that Government measures announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak in May – including the Energy Bills Support Scheme doubled to a one-off £400; a one-off £650 Cost of Living Payment for those on means-tested benefits: a £150 Disability Cost of Living Payment; a one-off £300 Pensioner Cost of Living Payment; and £500m increase and extension of the Household Support Fund to councils – would help, but he still anticipated further increases in hardship in autumn and winter and a corresponding surge in demand for help from the food bank.
Across the UK in 2021-22, approximately 2.17 million people needed an emergency food parcel. According to the Trussell Trust, in 2008-09, the total was under 26,000.
Stortford food bank co-ordinator Hana Hainsby said the food bank was desperately short or had run out of tinned fruit, rice and sponge puddings, squash, tinned potatoes and instant mash, chocolate, crisps, toilet rolls and nappies.
Bill said: “The best way for people to help us in the short term is to donate more food at Sainsbury's, Tesco and Waitrose.”
In the long term, he said, the charity would also need more financial support so that it can continue to offer limited fuel finance, toiletries and cleaning items as well as food parcels.
It costs around £60,000 a year to run. In 2021 the team delivered 1,263 food boxes – 90% from donations – and helped 2,400 people.
Groceries can be dropped off at the food bank at the Methodist church on Mondays between 10am and 1pm or on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 10am and 4pm.
For a comprehensive list of items in demand and full details of how to help, see the food bank’s website https://www.bishopsstortfordfoodbank.com/, which has just been revamped thanks to Simpsons Creative.