In the space of barely one month our food bank, which traditionally, served mainly the west end of Newcastle – has been transformed into a city-wide service helping the growing ranks of the neediest. In an unprecedented operation, we are working with a wide range of partners to co-ordinate help across the city in a national emergency.
Other food banks, through no fault of their own, have had to scale back or close, we’ve completely reshaped operations to ensure we reach as many hungry people as possible. We are expanding into the east end of the city in partnership with Life Vineyard Church and other local agencies.
That we’ve managed to change so quickly, to meet the challenges of an emergency which has no parallel in peacetime, is due to the tireless commitment of dedicated staff and volunteers who often work long hours to get the job over the line.
Some of the poorest, already on low pay before being laid off work, are adding to demand – and we’re determined to do all in our power to help them.
We are distributing food parcels (for individuals, couples, families) four days a week, from 10 to 1pm; Monday and Thursday at our centre in the West Road; Tuesday and Wednesday at the food bank centre in Benwell Lane. Our referral agencies and Life Vineyard Church in the east are also distributing food parcels to ease the situation in that part of the city.
But that’s only part of the operation. Working with partners, particularly Newcastle City Council, we are also serving people isolating in their homes, with van deliveries. This is a new departure for us: lists outlining demand sent from our office to our warehouse one day are ready for collection by a van the next. The city council provides the delivery vehicles, supplemented by some from British Gas – sometimes with a social worker following to check on individuals in need or at risk.
As a result, hundreds of extra people are being helped weekly – on top of several thousand already receiving help. All this is happening against the background of unprecedented demand for food bank services locally and nationally.
You can get an idea of the scale from new statistics compiled by the Trussell Trust, to which we’re affiliated. During the last two weeks of March alone, it recorded an 81% increase nationally for emergency food parcels from food banks in its network. And other food banks, in an independent network, reported a 60% increase – 17 times higher than in the same period last year.
A coalition of charities – including the Child Poverty Action Group, Childrens’ Society, the Jospeph Rowntree Foundation – is now calling for a temporary Coronavirus Emergency Income Support Scheme from the government to help people facing hardship, not least the millions laid off work in this emergency.
“Like a tidal wave gathering pace, an economic crisis is sweeping towards us – but we don’t have all the lifeboats,” says the Trussell Trust. “We have the power to come together as a country to ensure support is there to stop any of us being swept into poverty during this emergency.”
In April, the number of food parcels issued by Newcastle West End Foodbank was up 150% on the same period last year and demand will grow further as Life Vineyard Church and our referral partners face increased requests for help. This is set against a backdrop of fewer public food donations being received as people continue to self-isolate to protect themselves and others against the Coronavirus.
Donations from the business community and emergency COVID-19 funds will help the charity to meet some of the shortfall. It is the public Online donations and support for the Foodbank website campaign that will help to raise funds to buy much needed stock to fill food parcels in the months ahead. Website visits are helping to drive donations and support from all sections of the community is heart-warming, especially our wonderful NHS staff.
Thank you, for helping us to help others in their time of need.