South Tyneside food bank racks up £1,000-a-week food bill during cost of living crisis - and fears it's going to get steeper

A project which helps some of South Tyneside’s hardest hit families is facing a weekly food bill of up to £1,000 – but it is determined to help even more locals.

And organisers at the Bede’s Helping Hands food bank – which has just launched its latest facility – are predicting the cost will go up further as the harshest effects of winter have not yet arrived.

The number of people turning to the project, which is based in Jarrow, has rocketed by 50% to 120 people a week since April this year.

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Numbers are expected to rise as the cost of living increase hits harder and winter months beckon, officials believe.

The launch of the community fridge scheme by Bede's Helping Hands.

Helping Hands does get support from vital backers but it has also seen the amount it has had to spend on food increase.

Tracy Beaton, who runs the scheme, said: “We are spending up to £1,000 a week on food to keep up with demand and that is now – not in the middle of winter.”

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The project’s own bills have also gone up and its latest electricity bill was £2400 for the last quarter, said Tracy.

Yet despite the increasing costs, Bede’s Helping Hands is doing everything it can to support people who are struggling.

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Tracy Beaton proudly displays the full community fridge, set up thanks to a donation from the Co-Op represented by Amanda Lenney.

It launched its newest facility on Tuesday, October 4, when it unveiled a community fridge, stocked with cheese, bacon, and other products.

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The community fridge, which has been set up with funding support from the Co-op community fund, will ‘provide fresh food and also cooked meals which will be provided by our working partnership with Food for Thought Pantry. We are also going to provide fresh vegetables and fruit,” said Tracy.

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"We need to help our residents a bit further and we are offering fresh food as a better way of helping them. We hope that people will come along and see what we are all about.”

The Mayor of South Tyneside, Coun Pat Hay and Mayoress Mrs Jean Copp join Tracy Beaton for the launch of the community fridge scheme.
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Tracy said a ‘lot of people’ had already been asking if the food bank scheme did supply fresh produce.

Early arrivals on the launch day were given fresh fruit and veg to go alongside the normal parcel and Tracy added: “It helps to make things go that little bit further.”

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The Community Fridge will be open between 10am and 2pm from Monday to Friday at Bede’s Helping Hands in Jarrow, which is in the Old Library on the Scotch Estate.

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Tracy Beaton, who runs Bede's Helping Hands, with the community fridge which is now ready to help locals struggling with their food needs.

Thanks must go to the team of 12 volunteers, including Tracy, who run the scheme without being paid for it.

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Some of the unsung heroes who give their time each week are people who had previously turned to the food bank for support.

Tracy added: “They wanted to help put something back after we supported them and helped them get back on their feet.

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"They just wanted to pay back in some way.”

As the cost of running the food bank rises, Tracy urged businesses to support the initiative.

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Any companies which can offer backing should email [email protected] or call 0191 8163021.