Food banks in South Tyneside report huge rise in usage during 2020
South Tyneside food banks have reported a huge rise in the numbers of people requiring emergency support across the borough in 2020, with one community centre boss underlining “it’s people like you and me that are struggling through the Covid crisis”.
The South Shields-based Hospitality and Hope food bank said it had handed out 3,000 food parcels to in-need borough residents this year, with 100 more packages having been provided over the Christmas week.
The organisation’s CEO, Brian Thomas, told The Gazette that working at the centre during December was “a real eye opener” and that it has been clear residents in the area are already bearing the economic brunt of the pandemic.
"People tend to think of a stereotypical homeless person when they think of the people coming to centres like ours,” he said.
"But it’s not. It’s people like you and me that are struggling through the Covid crisis – people who are furloughed, on minimum wage, getting 70 percent of it and not surviving.”
Nationally, the Trussell Trust recorded nearly two million three-day emergency parcels having been distributed by its network of food banks nationwide – of which Hospitality and Hope is one – over the past year.
This represents a 300,000 rise on the previous year, where just over 1.6 million packages were handed out. 98,461 of those emergency parcels were provided in the North East.
Five years ago, the organisation’s overall figure of food parcel distribution nationally was around a million.
Angie Comerford, co-founder of another South Tyneside food bank, Hebburn Helps, said the number of food parcels it has supplied to residents this year had risen more than tenfold since 2018.
She said the number of emergency food hampers provided has jumped up from 627 two years ago to over 4,000 last year – and 6,864 in total for 2020.
“Even January, which is usually quite quiet for us, was one for the books – it was really busy,” Mrs Comerford added.
"Some of the support people in the area have shown to help with deliveries has been amazing.
"But it’s been incredible how the numbers have gone through the roof. In some months we were seeing numbers treble on last year’s.
"God knows what’s going to happen in 2021 – unfortunately, I can’t see any light at the end of the tunnel just yet.”
Over the Christmas period, Hebburn Helps also helped ensure 240 meals went out to vulnerable elderly residents in the borough.
Commenting on the factors driving the rising demand in the area, Mr Thomas said: "Another thing we’ve seen is that people who would have had community support networks in the community have been hit by those networks being shut down due to Covid.
"Because of this, it’s been difficult for a number of people in the area to get the support they need. And by God are they really going to need it when they come out the other end of this.
"My message for people in 2021 who need the help is: don’t hesitate. Some people don’t come forward out of a sense of shame and pride and can go desperately hungry for a long time before coming to us.
“If you need support and you need to come forward, you won’t be judged.”