Appeal for help as demand at South Shields food bank hits highest level in 30 years

A South Shields food bank has appealed for help after seeing demand rise to its highest levels in almost 30 years since the coronavirus outbreak.
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Volunteers at the Key 2 Life food bank on Boldon Lane, South Shields have seen the number of people coming through the door increase by more than three times in the last six weeks.

Since the lockdown measures were introduced in March to slow the spread of Covid-19, the volunteer-run service has helped 1,412 people struggling to put food on the table.

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This is more than three times the number of people who received food packages in February – a total of 407.

Manager of Key 2 Life food bank, Jo Benham-BrownManager of Key 2 Life food bank, Jo Benham-Brown
Manager of Key 2 Life food bank, Jo Benham-Brown

Key 2 Life manager, Jo Benham-Brown says in its 27-year history, the food bank has never given out as much food as it has in the last month.

She adds that many families now facing desperate measures are those whose livelihoods have been put on hold due to the crisis.

“Demand has gone through the roof at the moment, but the most shocking thing is that many of these people have never accessed the help of a food bank before,” said Jo.

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“These are people who have never even used the benefit system before - they are ashamed to be asking for help.

The food bank has seen demand rise to its highest levels in almost 30 years.The food bank has seen demand rise to its highest levels in almost 30 years.
The food bank has seen demand rise to its highest levels in almost 30 years.

“We’ve even seeing regular donors who are now turning to the food bank for help themselves.”

Jo continued: “People’s income has just dried up overnight, it’s those who are self-employed people, those who have been furloughed or even just laid off, as some companies don’t have the cash flow to place people on furlough.

“There’s this idea that people are being protected but it’s not always the case.”

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A South Tyneside Churches project, Key 2 Life is the longest-running food bank in South Tyneside, providing more food parcels than any other service in the borough.

It is now appealing for help keep its shelves stocked with events cancelled and elderly residents who would donate regularly, staying at home to protect themselves.

“Previously have had a steady flow of donations coming in from the church activities but because they are not going ahead and our usual supporters are not able to get out, we’re seeing stock levels become frighteningly low,” said Jo.

“There’s also problems with stock in the supermarkets, every week there seems to be something that you can’t get - first it was toilet roll, then pasta, now it’s tinned fruit.

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“It’s not always possible to go and bulk-buy items at the moment.”

The food bank is currently short on items such as tinned fruit and vegetables - including chopped tomatoes - tinned meat, pasta, pasta sauce, rice, custard and longlife milk.

Jo has urged anyone who is able to do so safely, to donate something to the food bank this week.

“We have seen a huge increase in donations from members of the public who weren’t necessarily familiar with our work,” she added.

“It’s really important we raise that awareness now.”

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Donations can be dropped off at the Key 2 Life food bank at the Library, Boldon Lane, South Shields, open Monday-Friday from 10am-4pm.

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