South Shields food bank helps around 3,000 families during coronavirus pandemic and demand shows no signs of slowing down
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Hospitality & Hope, based on Hampden Street, has said that the effects of the pandemic have hit South Tyneside families hard.
The charity has experienced a high demand for the food bank service since the Government’s restrictions first came into place six months ago.
Charity bosses say the food bank has supported around 3,000 people during that six month period – an increase of 1,000 people compared to the same period last year.
And demand shows no signs of slowing down, with the charity reporting a further increase in September when pupils returned to school.
Chief executive, Paul Oliver said: “Demand for the food bank has been high since the restrictions came into place six months ago.
"We have seen a further increase this month as the schools have returned with families struggling, so we are providing additional support to schools right now.
"We are also experiencing an increase in people using the service more than once, as they are unable to receive help from support workers due to restrictions."
In a bid to tackle this, Hospitality & Hope has launched a self-referral form on its website for those who have been caught in short term crisis and don’t have access to a keyworker.
In addition to this, the charity is also working with more than 30 schools and children’s centres across the borough, making up family-sized food parcels for staff to hand out on site to families in need.
The initiative which started last year, means that people can have instant access to food rather than having to wait for a referral to be processed or for a collection to be arranged.Food parcels are also handed out the week before school holidays begin, so that families receiving free school meals can provide for their children during the holidays.
Mr Oliver said: “Even though we have had an increase in food bank referrals over the last six months we haven’t been able to help schools as much as we would have liked.
"Once they were told to close due to lockdown in the spring it was difficult to provide for those families as contact was limited.
"This is the reason I believe that we are seeing a rise over the last couple of weeks since the schools have returned.”
Now members of the public are being urged to donate to help people in need if they can, as the run up to Christmas is expected to be a busy time for the food bank.
Mr Oliver said: “We expect the run up to Christmas to be very busy for us and this is the time of year where many community groups give us harvest food donations.
"I would encourage these groups to still help us if possible, no matter how small, so that we can continue to support those in need this winter.”
If anyone is in need or has a family member or friend who is struggling for food, they can refer them via: https://www.hospitalityandhope.org.uk/selfreferral-request-south-tyneside-food-bank