HUNGER in Rugby has grown for the fifth year in a row as the town’s foodbank revealed the number of emergency food supplies handed out has risen by over a quarter since last year – more than the national average.
New figures show 2,004 three-day food packages were given to local people in crisis between April 1 and September 30 this year, compared to 1601 in the same period last year. Of this total, 734 parcels went to children.
Volunteers at the foodbank blamed the local increase on low wages, debt and ‘continued issues around benefit payments including the Universal Credit roll-out in this area’.
Rugby Foodbank project manager and director Diana Mansell said the six-plus week waiting period for a first Universal Credit payment could contribute to debt, mental health issues and rent arrears.
She said: “The effects can last even after people receive their payments, as bills and debts pile up.
“Rugby Foodbank is working hard to help prevent local people affected going hungry but is troubled by the extra pressure this puts on food donation stocks and volunteers’ capacity.
“It’s really worrying we are still seeing an increase in need for emergency food across Rugby. Every week people are referred to us after something unavoidable – like illness, a delayed benefit payment including the crippling Universal Credit delays, or even an unexpected bill – all these means there’s no money for food.
“It’s only with local people’s help that we’re able to provide vital support when it matters most. While we hope one day there’ll be no need for our work, until that day comes we’ll be working hard to help prevent people going hungry.”
Rugby Foodbank is a member of The Trussell Trust’s network, which has reported a 13 per cent increase in UK foodbank use.
Mark Ward, interim chief executive at The Trussell Trust, said: “We’re concerned foodbanks could struggle to meet demand this winter if critical changes to benefit delivery aren’t made now.
“People cannot be left for weeks without any income, and when that income does come, it must keep pace with living costs – foodbanks cannot be relied upon to pick up the pieces.
“Without urgent action from policy-makers and even more generous practical support from the public, we don’t know how foodbanks are going to stop families and children going hungry this Christmas.”
Rugby MP Mark Pawsey said people visited food banks for a variety of reasons and described the need to do so as ‘highly undesirable’.
He said: “I have met with representatives of the local foodbank in the past and I will be seeking a further meeting with them to discuss their views as to why they believe there has been an increase in their use locally.
“The welfare system supports millions of people who are on low incomes or unemployed, so nobody has to struggle to meet their basic needs, but I firmly believe that the surest route out of poverty is work. This Government is dedicated to building an economy that works for everyone, and has overseen falls in unemployment, record numbers of jobs, pay cheques rising faster than inflation and income tax cut.
“I look forward to this record continuing, and especially welcome the creation of a National Living Wage that is giving two and a half million people a direct pay rise, with those previously on the Minimum Wage seeing their pay rise by over a third.”
The foodbank network traditionally sees a spike in foodbank use in the months leading up to Christmas due to factors such as cold weather and high energy bills.
Rugby Foodbank welcomes any new offers of help from businesses, organisations and individuals with its £19,000 annual running costs – all of which is raised locally. Volunteers are also asking the community to help them prepare for their busiest time of year by donating urgently needed food. Visit www.rugby.foodbank.org.uk for more information.