Struggling South Tyneside parents are turning to food banks during the summer holidays to help feed their children, the Gazette can reveal.
There has been a huge surge in numbers accessing the services provided by the Christian charity Hospitality and Hope, now based at the former Hampden Street Day Centre in South Shields.
There has been a visible increase in the number of parents using the food banks this summer compared to last.Emelia Luffrum, Hospitality and Hope
Demand at the food banks the charity runs across the town has coincided with schools closing for the six-week summer break.
It is a period when the free meals and breakfast clubs provided at schools are no longer available.
Hard-up parents, faced with finding the money for an additional two meals a day for each child, are increasingly accessing Hospitality and Hope’s support.
Amelia Luffrum, the charity’s project manager, says there has been a “visible increase” this year in the number of parents requesting the vouchers needed to exchange for meals.
She said: “We haven’t collated the figures yet but there has been a visible increase in the number of parents using the food banks this summer compared to last.
“It’s just part and parcel of the Government cutbacks and the general state of the country at the moment.
“All we can do is provide help. That’s why we are here.”
Amelia has also had talks with the council’s children’s services section to work together in advance of anticipated demand next summer.
Now the charity has offered to supply food to any community organisation in the borough which is working with children during school holidays.
Amelia said: “We want to put support in place next year, long before the summer holidays.
“What happens is that kids use the school breakfast clubs and have access to free school meals, and suddenly that is taken away during the summer holidays.
“Parents then have to provide two additional meals a day for each child, and that’s obviously more difficult the more children you have. Increasingly, they are seeking our help.
“We have plenty of food and can provide pasta, hot dogs and rice, for example, to any group working with children during the summer holidays.
“It doesn’t have to be just during the summer, it can be at Christmas and Easter and other school holidays. The hope is that we can set up a formal arrangement with these groups.”
Coun Joan Atkinson, the council’s lead member for children, young people and families, said: “It’s awful that parents are struggling to feed their children over the holidays.
“No child should ever go hungry. There are organisations in the borough which are doing some amazing work providing much-needed support and they witness first-hand the direct impact this tough economic climate is having on vulnerable families.
“As a council, we continue to look for ways to support families who are experiencing hardship in these times of austerity.”
Food is provided from a variety of sources, particularly the two Asda stores in South Tyneside, where customers are encouraged to ‘buy an extra tin’ for the charity.
Donations also come from schools, churches and individuals. Hospitality and Hope is also the chosen charity this year of Hebburn-based high-tech electrical components company Siemens.
Donations of long-life, non-perishable foods are always gratefully received.
Help can be accessed through the charity’s website HERE.
HOW HOSPITALITY AND HOPE CAN HELP
Formed in 2002, Hospitality and Hope is a Christian charity providing support and help to anyone in need, but homeless and disadvantaged people in particular.
It provides a range of services from Hampden Street in South Shields, and is totally volunteer-run and managed.
A registered charity hot food, sandwiches and drinks are all available in a friendly and comfortable environment to anyone in need.
The Food Bank provides emergency food parcels to vulnerable and needy people in South Tyneside.
Hospitality and Hope has identified that in the current economic climate, not only existing clients but other people are experiencing hardship.
Food is donated and stored at Hampden Street and care agencies, other organisations and charities supporting people in need will allocate food vouchers which can then be exchanged for a three-day supply of food.
People wishing to access this service must do so via one of the partner agencies, for example people currently active with social services can approach their social worker.
The agency will assess need and issue a voucher if appropriate.
The voucher can then be exchanged for a food parcel at Hampden Street.
There are no charges for the service, but the charity does accept donations.