Food banks fear Covid crisis could create overload in demand from desperate South Tyneside families

South Tyneside food banks fear an autumn-to-Christmas overload of demand for their services due to the coronavirus crisis – and are calling for extra public support.

Thursday, 10th September 2020, 7:00 am
Angie Comerford and Paul Oliver

A 60% upsurge in requests was seen by some at the start of pandemic lockdown in March and the following few months, a traditionally quiet time of year.

And they are warning of an even higher increase in calls for help from September to the festive period, the annually anticipated peak season.

Bosses say the combination of the ending of government-supported, Covid-induced mortgage holidays and furlough schemes could impact severely.

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Hebburn Helps' Angie Comerford (left) with co-founder Jo Durkin.

They are now asking the public to dig even deeper than has already happened this year to help the borough’s most vulnerable.

Paul Oliver, chief executive of South Shields-based Hospitality and Hope, said: “We are usually quite quiet from spring into summer, but this year demand was about 60% up.

“And the period from autumn into winter is the busiest – I am expecting an even greater increase in demand over that period.

“At this time of year, we can look forward to support groups supplying us with lots of food from their harvest festivals and suchlike.

Hospitality and Hope operation development manager Paul Oliver food doantion appeal

“Unfortunately, the concern we have is that the number of community groups and churches who usually help will fall, leading to a drop in donations.

“From the start of lockdown, we adapted well to the situation and got extra support from the public and from grant funding.

“We have been able to meet need, and I am grateful for the support, but more will be needed.”

Angie Comerford, co-founder of the Hebburn Helps food bank, said: “At the start of Covid, we were supplying 15 parcels a day.

“We then quickly maxed out a 100, it was an amazing upturn, things went crazy.

“The extra demand hasn’t so much been from people on benefits but from those who have been furloughed or who have lost their job.

“It’s died down at the moment but I’m expected there to be a big increase in the run up to Christmas.

“I think we could easily be facing double what we do normally at that time of year.”

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