South Tyneside food bank need tripled over Christmas compared to previous year

Families across South Tyneside were able to have a merrier Christmas this year thanks to the efforts of a borough food bank.

Mortimer College Christmas 2020 Donations Source: Mortimer College, South Shields
Mortimer College Christmas 2020 Donations Source: Mortimer College, South Shields

Sweets and treats were among the packages doled out by South Shield’s Key 2 Life project in the run up to the end of the year.

But households battle over the last of their favourite leftovers, planning is already underway for how to help in 2021.

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“Typically donations drop off in January,” said Jo Benham Brown, the scheme’s business and communities manager.

Mortimer College Christmas 2020 Donations (Van) Source: Mortimer College, South Shields

“We would consider [December] a purple patch and long may it continue, but it’s hard for us to anticipate demand.

“We’re aware job losses in South Tyneside are going up, unemployment is increasing and that is all going to continue.

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“Just as the need is likely to increase, donations are likely to reduce.”

While in December the focus was on ensuring families had mince pies, twiglets and other festive treats to mark the holiday, January sees a switch to more practical needs.

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Toiletries, washing powder and washing liquid are all among the essentials bosses expect many homes to find themselves short of in the New Year and have already started appealing for donations.

And they are also braced for a surge in demand following an especially busy Christmas.

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Benham Brown said: “I think we helped 160 families last Christmas, but this year I think we’re in the region of about 500 – it’s just off the scale.

She added: “It shouldn’t be like this, but we know people are losing jobs or being furloughed.

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“It’s the worst time of the year if families are cracking under the pressure – no one should feel they don’t know where their next meal is coming from.”

Despite the strain caused by the downturn in fortunes for many families however, the food bank is confident it will be able to cope.

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While the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic has hit all sections of society, many have decided giving is the best way to fight back.

She said: “We’ve never known a year like it [for need], but also the amount of donations, from young and old people, people in and out of work, they all just want to help.

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“We’ve got parents calling us saying they can’t get shopping for their children and it can be distressing.

“But I also think we’ve got as many generous people in South Tyneside as we have people in need.”

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