Why food banks are still hungry for funds as the cutbacks bite
The economy may be recovering but hundreds of thousands of people continue to need help, says Neasa MacErlean
Friday 11 October 2013
Hundreds of thousands of people who receive meals or other provisions from food banks and charities look set to face greater difficulties over the next year in accessing the basic foodstuffs these organisations provide.
A report from social-research institute NatCen, given exclusively today to The Independent, shows that food distribution from FareShare, one of the leading suppliers, is "ideally located" and reaching the poorest and most health-deprived areas of Britain.
However, data from FareShare itself reveals that one in 10 of the food banks, soup kitchens and other charities it supplies "will either have to stop providing food or reduce their level of service" as a direct result of funding cuts. Some 42 per cent, in total, are facing cuts. At the same time, 70 per cent of the food banks and charities predict an increase in demand from the needy. The NatCen report – From Food Waste to Fighting Hunger: Exploring FareShare – is published this Wednesday, World Food Day.
The food-bank sector is a phenomenon of the last decade. The Trussell Trust, which now has 400 such centres, had just two in 2004. Although there were some local food banks before that, it took the economic downturn that started in 2007/08 to create strong, national networks such as FareShare and Trussell. Today it is not just food banks which provide help but also organisations such as homelessness charities which provide meals, women's refuges, addiction groups and community centres for the elderly.
So will this branch of the voluntary sector shrink again as economic growth returns? Lindsey Boswell, chief executive of FareShare, says: "The FTSE might be doing well and new-car purchases are up, but the voluntary sector will be struggling for some time to come. The impact of the current recession will have a tail that will go way beyond the return of the feel-good factor in the country."
Right now charities which are stopping providing food to clients are doing so in desperation. Those that are continuing generally find that more people are coming to them for help.
"That is right across the board," says Mr Boswell. "It includes domestic-violence refuges, community cafes for the elderly, mental-health charities and drug and alcohol-addiction centres."
Food banks and charities have placed themselves in the areas of greatest need. The FareShare network, through a backbone of 17 centres, supplies 910 community projects. Of these, 63 per cent are in the 20 per cent of neighbourhoods which are the most deprived. Similarly, over half (58 per cent) are found in the most health-deprived areas, according to NatCen. Depots in Manchester and Merseyside provide food to areas suffering from the greatest health deprivation in Britain.
There are, nevertheless, gaps, and FareShare plans to expand further into the east of England and the south west. Although the charity believes it will increase the amount of food it provides – a total equal to feeding 44,000 people every day – any increase will be hard-won. This is because the food and drink which it procures are the waste from suppliers to the supermarkets, and those suppliers are extremely efficient. It also receives food – tins, fresh fruit and vegetables, snacks and meals – from all the major supermarket chains and many farmers.
"The food industry in the UK is probably among the most efficient on the planet," says Mr Boswell. "So you end up with really small margins. The whole food industry is getting more efficient and wasting less."
Another factor which affects the provision of food and drink to struggling individuals and families is the entree which food gives charities with their clients. For instance, one of the drug-addiction centres which is on the FareShare supply network recently said word had got out among the addicts in the area about the high quality of the food available there.
"We've increased the number of people who are going on rehab courses," the drug-centre manager told FareShare.
And Mr Boswell says: "Food is just a symptom. Many charities use food as a way to engage with someone who is vulnerable."
It is partly for this reason that, looking forward to times of economic growth, he says: "I don't think food banks will go away completely."
The Trussell Trust is not expecting to see food banks go away either. It has a goal "for every town to have one". At the moment a third of the recipients of its provisions are children.
NatCen reports that "previously unaffected demographic groups are now confronting food insecurity on a daily basis."
Mr Boswell makes a similar point, describing how the position of people like himself – in a stable job and marriage, with two children – can degenerate through job loss and then debt and separation into a devastating personal situation within nine months... "then you're in poor health and really struggling to feed yourself".
THE PARTNERSHIP: FARESHARE & GERBER
From its base in Bridgwater, Somerset, Gerber Juice is the main provider of fruit juices in the UK. It is also highly efficient. When FareShare approached it a few years ago to ask for its excess production, the charity was told that there was virtually no waste. The excess was just 0.04 per cent.
But in the ensuing negotiations, FareShare said even such a tiny proportion would mean a lot spread among the needy. In fact, Gerber's waste adds up to one million glasses of orange and other juices a year – or 300,000 litres. This is of particular use to charities whose clients are prone to malnourishment. The homeless, in particular, tend to suffer from a lack of vitamin C. Gerber not only donates its excess to FareShare, it also pays the distribution costs. "We've been doing this for quite a few years and have seen the big difference FareShare can make in improving lives through better diet and nutrition," the company says.
After fresh fruit and vegetables, fruit juice is the most common item FareShare distributes to its client charities. Looking at the end results of the Gerber donation, FareShare says: "Gerber is also helping drug rehab courses and programmes against domestic violence and for the elderly."
CASE STUDIES: HELP FOR ALL, FROM THE HOMELESS TO ALCOHOLICS
"Joe", an alcoholic seeking help at an addictions unit, was asked about his nutrition before going to the centre: "Starving. I was not eating at all. I couldn't eat. I was just drinking, constantly. You know, eating was impossible. Really, really, really bad."
"Bob", who is cooking some meals for himself and other rough sleepers at a homelessness charity, says: "I enjoy cooking a meal, serving it up, hearing people, what they thought of it. It gives you a wee bit of confidence, and it makes you feel better that you're doing something. You must be doing something right when you're cooking, you know? I mean I've never looked at myself as being a decent cook, but people come back and say 'This was good', and 'That was good', and 'That was really nice', and to hear that, I think it's good."
"Ed", another rough sleeper, talks about the food provisions at a homelessness charity: "There's always plenty of food, the food's always good, the food's always hot. Cooked... and sometimes you might get a bit of fruit or a little bit of salad or something."
"Ray", a diner at a luncheon club, says: "This is actually vital for me. I get my cooked main meal here."
"Susan", another visitor to the luncheon club, adds: "I don't know what I'd do without it, I really don't. I come here for the good, square meal and the company."
"Nicky", who goes to a homelessness charity, says: "Whether I need to come here or not, the most important thing to me is the social aspect of it."
"Alice", beneficiary of a domestic-violence refuge, is "thankful" for the help she gets. "Really, it helps us and our families, our little ones. We are really just thankful for that. I'm sure we all feel that way. For me, the first thing I want is for my child to eat."
Mark Dampier: 'So what if a recovery fund is out of luck? The clue is in the title'
Women born in 1950s facing severe financial hardship over pensions could have fates changed by Ros Altmann - should she choose to help
Questions of Cash: We bought the special ceramic poppies. Then the saga began
Five Questions On: GB Energy's new tariff
Halifax credit card charges: bank is forcing interest rate rises on its customers
- 1 Engineer pictured fixing plane's engine with 'duct tape' by concerned EasyJet passenger
- 2 Two-year-old says goodbye to bin man best friend
- 3 Saudi Arabia mosque bombing: Two volunteer security guards hailed as heroes for stopping Isis suicide bomber reaching worshippers
- 4 There is something wrong but very right about this Bible illustration
- 5 Remove smartphones from the hands of under-18s and maybe they will grow up to be less dumb
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
Migrants in Kos: Photos show real tragedy after Brits abroad complain of 'awkward' holidays
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
Australian man punched in the face for defending Muslim women from abuse on train
David Starkey 'tells Amal Clooney to shut up and stop over-promoting human rights'
iJobs Money & Business
£30 - 35k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pricing Analyst to join a leading e-...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K YR1: SThree: At SThree, we like to be dif...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Did you know? SThree is a mul...
£55 - 65k (DOE): Guru Careers: A unique opportunity for a permanent C# Develop...
Day In a Page
This four-bedroom Edwardian home offers a combination of original features and contemporary design after a renovation by the current owners.
In the pretty market town of Bungay, this grade II-listed Mill House is arranged over four floors, offering four bedrooms and three reception areas.
This four-bedroom home offers a vaulted ceiling in a breakfast room that's ideal for summer entertaining with doors that open to the patio and garden.
On the market for the first time in more than 50 years, this six-bedroom home is a project with vast potential - spread over three floors of living space.
This five-bedroom home comes with a range of outbuildings including a large barn which could be converted into a self-contained granny-flat or rental.
Surrounded by rolling countryside, this four-bedroom barn conversion comes with a self-contained, one-bedroom annexe that could serve as an office or a holiday let.
Located near Harrogate town centre, this five-bedroom Victorian terrace is arranged over three storeys while a current study serves as an optional sixth bedroom.
A ground-floor flat in a country house, located a mile from Sway; this two-bedroom home would make an ideal weekend retreat on the edge of the New Forest.
On a popular residential lane in Caterham on the Hill, this four-bedroom family home offers a secluded garden and a convenient location for local schools and public transport.
Just a short walk from Westerham green, this three-bedroom cottage has a light kitchen with exposed brickwork and double doors that lead to a south-facing garden.
In a prime spot opposite the River Thames, this one-bedroom flat has an 18sq ft reception room with glass doors that open out to a private terrace.
Set in the hills above Llanwrda Village, west Wales, this 18th-century three-bedroom farmhouse has holiday-let potential from a separate barn conversion and annexe.
This charming end-of-terrace townhouse is arranged over three floors, with two double bedrooms and a private courtyard garden located at the rear of the property.
Located in the University area, this semi-detached five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors - there's even a rear garden and off-road parking too.
Only a few minutes' drive from the charming town of Marlow, this two-bedroom home sits on the private riverside estate of Harleyford.
This detached four-bedroom home in Middleyard is arranged over two floors, with features that include a wood-burning stove and bespoke oak staircase.
In a row of eight detached Georgian residences, this five-bedroom home offers views of The Sound, Mount Edgcumbe and Cornwall from its impressive veranda and full-length balcony.
If you love cooking for friends this two-bedroom flat - complete with views of the iconic Battersea Power Station and an open-plan kitchen/dining area - will go down a treat.
Located above Grasmere village, this five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors and offers countryside views across Grasmere Lake towards Silver Howe.
Surrounded by the Western fells, this five-bedroom Georgian home retains many original features including panel-plastered ceilings, sash windows and fireplaces.
This six-bedroom home is set amongst three acres of grounds. Currently a large family home, Clift Hill has potential to make a B&B, subject to change of use permissions.
A former period coach house, Glebe Farm Stable is now a three-bedroom cottage with a double car barn, office, kennels and an outbuilding that's currently used as a gym.
Surrounded by woodland, this five-bedroom manor house has plenty of outdoor storage space in the form of three converted loose boxes, two smaller outhouses and a woodstore.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with a double carport, useful workshop, garden and two walkways that offer views of the adjacent countryside.
With space for an equestrian business, a greenhouse for growing your own veg, a wine store and a gym; this five-bedroom home has all the ingredients for a country retreat.
The decked roof terrace of this two-bedroom flat is perfect for summer drinks while large windows and ample storage space make for a light and spacious interior.
Set sail for this four-bedroom farmhouse in Cowes. With five acres of land and an indoor pool, this home oozes character. There is even potential to let a one-bedroom annexe.
Surrounded by approximately 15 acres of grounds, this six-bedroom grade II-listed home has been extensively refurbished yet retains many period features.
This four-bedroom home comes with a two-bedroom cottage and commercial office, with planning to extend, in a stunning courtyard setting.
In a pretty Norfolk village, this four-bedroom family home is surrounded by landscaped gardens, with even a self-contained annex for guests.
A few miles from the seaside at Perranporth, this four-bedroom farmhouse sits amongst nine acres of idyllic grounds - including a lake and two barns used as holiday lets.
This five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors of a converted Victorian hospital, offering spectacular views of the Pentland Hills - only three miles from the city centre.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with grounds that span to approximately 2.5 acres, as well as two large patio areas and a double garage.
This four-bedroom cottage is a Grade II-listed town house, well-located for the thriving market town of Nailsworth.
A four-bedroom apartment on the ground floor of a stunning period property in North Yorkshire, with two kitchens and a large south-west facing garden.
This high-spec two-bedroom home is part of a smart collection of new flats at Beaufort Park and has a large decked balcony that's perfect for summer drinks.
Capitalise on the fabulous views of Trevone Bay by taking two homes and creating one spacious boutique B&B. Just a cliff-top walk from Padstow.
Overlooking a golf course, this six-bedroom Edwardian detached home spans four storeys and retains many period features including the original, operational servants' bells...
On the edge of the city, this six-bedroom home comes with an outdoor swimming pool and a large garage block that has annexe potential.
In a Grade II-listed manor just outside of Bath, this three-bedroom home is arranged on two floors with a skylight in a vaulted roof line.
Open the living room's bi-fold wooden doors to reveal a retro-style kitchen, and a conservatory leading to a paved garden at this three-bedroom home.
A Grade II-listed, four-bedroom home, in a charming Somerset village, with a two-storey studio that could be converted into a holiday cottage
A modern four-bedroom Victorian home, within walking distance to the high street
A luxury apartment in the Gothic mansion of Wyfold Court in Kingwood, offers six bedrooms spread over three floors and a turret
This school conversion, near Stockwell Tube, oozes New York loft style. The one-bedroom flat features double height ceilings and exposed brick work
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two-oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn
High Crest House covers an impressive 9384sq ft, with almost three acres of grounds including a tennis court and summer house enclosed by electric gates
A six-bedroom farmhouse with separate accommodation in converted stables. Situated in the village of Church Aston, within walking distance to the market town
A two-bedroom flat with under-heated walnut floors and bespoke built-in storage. The Tube and Clapham Common are a short stroll away
A refurbished seven-bedroom townhouse with staff quarters, cinema room, superb gym, steam room and plunge pool