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UPDATE 10am November 7

We have been contacted by Gillingham Foodbank who say there is a mistake in the figures that they released to the media and that the story below should be disregarded. We will update this story with the new figures as and when we receive them.

Our apologies.

Michael Streeter

Between 1 April and 30 September 2017, 330 three-day emergency food supplies were provided to local people in crisis by Gillingham Foodbank, latest figures show.

Of these, 297 went to children.

The foodbank, a member of The Trussell Trust’s network which has today reported an increase in UK foodbank use, believes the local increase is due to people struggling with issues such as problems with benefit payments, low wages and insecure jobs.

In the months leading to Christmas a number of factors, such as cold weather and high energy bills, mean The Trussell Trust’s foodbank network traditionally sees a spike in foodbank use. Gillingham Foodbank is now asking the local community to help them prepare for their busiest time of year by donating urgently needed food items.

Gillingham Foodbank says it shares the concerns of other Trussell Trust foodbanks in full Universal Credit rollout areas about the issues that people referred to the charity have experienced with the new system. The six-week plus waiting period for a first payment can contribute to debt, mental health issues and rent arrears.

The effects of these can last even after people receive their Universal Credit payments, as bills and debts pile up, says the charity. Gillingham Foodbank says it is working hard to help prevent local people affected going hungry but is concerned about the extra pressure this puts on food donation stocks and volunteers’ capacity.

Hannah Gibbons, Foodbank Manager of Gillingham Foodbank said: ‘It’s really worrying that we are still seeing an increase in need for emergency food across North Dorset.

‘Every week people are referred to us after something unavoidable – like illness, a delayed benefit payment or an unexpected bill – 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, and whilst 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.’

She added: ‘Thank you so much to everyone who already donates time, food and money to help local people. If you’re not already involved, we’d love to hear from you!’

Mark Ward, Interim Chief Executive at The Trussell Trust, said: ‘We’re seeing soaring demand at foodbanks across the UK. Our network is working hard to stop people going hungry but the simple truth is that even with the enormous generosity of our donors and volunteers, 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.’

The running costs for the foodbank are around £13,000  a year, all of which is raised locally to enable them to continue their work.

Costs include warehouse space to sort and stock donated food and other overheads such as utilities and insurance.

The organisers also now have some extra costs as they are re-locating to the old Co-op in the High Street in Gillingham and say they would welcome any new offers of help with funding.

Local businesses, organisations and individuals interested in supporting the foodbank’s work can find out more at www.gillingham.foodbank.org.uk.

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