When a man hasn’t eaten for three days and devours a Pot Noodle in the reception of the Gloucester Foodbank, you know there’s a problem.
That was just one customer at the foodbank, in Great Western Road, last week.
New figures released yesterday show a further 44 per cent rise in the number of desperate city residents turning to the foodbank for help.
Some 4,690 adults and children have received a three day emergency food and support from the organisation in the past 12 months compared to 3,251 in the previous year.
Foodbank manager Anneliese Sterry said: “People often feel humiliated having to walk in here but when they can no longer feed their children they are left with no choice. They feel like they have let their kids down.”
Nationally, one million people had to rely on a foodbank in the past year.
GLOUCESTER FOODBANK: THE FACTS
- 4,690 people in Gloucester relied on the foodbank last year, including 1,651 children.
- 44 per cent rise in Gloucester’s foodbank users in just a year.
- Main reasons for using a foodbank are delays in benefits (37.5%), cuts in benefits (19.3%) and low income (14.9%).
- 32 tonnes of food distributed last year.
- Gloucester Foodbank opened its doors in April 2005.
Volunteer John Peacock, 69, said: “It can be absolutely heartbreaking. I spent 25 years in the military and you would have thought that I would have seen just about everything, but this has been a real eye-opener.
“We never judge, we only listen. It is very difficult for these people to come here.”
An army of 40 volunteers man the foodbank five days a week, running the food stocks to almost military precision. Everything is ordered by expiry date and put in the right section.
Volunteers even package up items together with a suggested recipe for dishes such as lasagne and chilli con carne for families with limited culinary skills.
But the problem has become so severe that some families are having to choose between forking out for food or for basic toiletries such as toilet roll. Anneliese added: “We stock toiletries now because some people can’t afford them but they want to keep their dignity by maintaining their personal hygiene.”
As national foodbank statistics were released, Chris Mould, chairman of The Trussell Trust, the UK’s largest foodbank network, said: “It is shocking that we’re seeing rising numbers of people needing to turn to foodbanks in 21st century Britain. This is just the tip of the iceberg.”