Food banks worried at ‘rising tide of hunger’

BUSY TIME ... Key Project food bank volunteers.
BUSY TIME ... Key Project food bank volunteers.

THE number of people in South Tyneside relying on food banks has trebled in recent years, charity leaders have warned.

Last year, more than 1,680 people in the borough needed food parcels, which are now distributed from food banks at several locations.

Bernadette Askins, chairwoman of the Key Project, which supports homeless young people, said: “We are concerned about the rising tide of hunger.

“Churches have been providing food parcels for small numbers of local people for more than 20 years, but we have seen a big increase in the past three years.

“Last year, 1,684 people needed food parcels, including 350 young people who were given food by Key.

“Most of those who come to the food banks are experiencing difficulties with delays in benefits, or punitive sanctions for minor infringements, which leaves them with very little money and in great danger of getting into debt.”

The warning comes a week after Jarrow MP Stephen Hepburn revealed that problems with benefit changes have driven some people in his constituency to the brink of suicide.

Patricia Smith, of New Hope Church, said: “Our experience is that when people come to a food bank they are often at their wits’ end trying to cope.

“They feel ashamed and say ‘I have never had to do this before’. Sometimes, they cry with relief when they are given food.”

Local people have been very generous with donations of food, toiletries and money, with schools, churches and businesses supporting the work of the food banks.

However, organisers warn that more donations are needed as demand continues to rise.

Food donations can be delivered to the Key Project at St Mary’s Centre, Whitehead Street, South Shields, or Grange Road Baptist Church in Jarrow.

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