Foodbanks preparing for surge in demand over Christmas

Stowmarket and Area Foodbank manager Mike Smith said volunteers were working hard to meet demand Picture: GREGG BROWN

Stowmarket and Area Foodbank manager Mike Smith said volunteers were working hard to meet demand Picture: GREGG BROWN - Credit: Gregg Brown

Foodbanks in Suffolk and north Essex are working “flat-out to make Christmas happen” as many families continue to face financial hardship amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Maureen Reynel MBE, founder of FIND foodbank in Ipswich Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Maureen Reynel MBE, founder of FIND foodbank in Ipswich Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

Use of foodbanks across the region has risen to unprecedented levels, charities have said, with volunteers working around the clock to ensure people in the community can be fed over the upcoming festive period.

Last month, the East of England Co-op’s Food Justice Conference heard that it was “time for action” in the fight against food poverty in the region.

Maureen Reynel MBE, founder of the Families In Need (FIND) foodbank in Ipswich, said the pandemic had created a situation that was “totally alien” to any other year.

She said she is confident the centre will be able to cope with the increased demand - but urged would-be donators to “extend Christmas giving” and support the foodbank’s efforts in the new year.

Mike Beckett, who manages Colchester Foodbank, said social distancing was presenting a logistics challenge Picture: ARCHANT

Mike Beckett, who manages Colchester Foodbank, said social distancing was presenting a logistics challenge Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Archant


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Ms Reynel said: “Food parcels are going out everyday and in big numbers. It has been difficult to get any large quantities from supermarkets.

“The general running is really tough. It’s manic and crazy.

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“It’s finding a way through something that is totally alien.”

MORE: How to help your local foodbank this Christmas

Mike Smith, who runs Stowmarket and Area Foodbank, said the centre’s output had doubled this year, but its efforts had been boosted as the community has rallied together.

This included a £2,500 donation to the foodbank from Stowmarket Town Council after the town’s Christmas lights switch-on was cancelled - an act Mr Smith described as “a sign that the pandemic has brought the best out of people”.

Mr Smith added: “We are working flat-out to make Christmas happen.

“We normally give one to one-and-a-half tonnes of food in a busy month. In November, we gave out four tonnes. Our figures have doubled over Covid.

“This year has been a challenge. We’ve been going eight years and never seen anything like it.

“But what you do notice is that the community is pulling together. This is a community response to a community need.”

Colchester Foodbank manager Mike Beckett said the centre is preparing “significantly” more food packages this year when compared to last Christmas, with social distancing guidelines making logistics an issue.

He said: “We are the busiest we’ve ever been and have more volunteers than ever before.

“The logistics for us have been a challenge, but we’ve been working hard. We want to make a difference.

“We’re gearing up for an increase in demand and we will do everything we can to be ready.”

Niall O’Keeffe, joint chief executive of the East of England Co-op, said: “We have learnt a lot through this pandemic about how we can impact on food justice and poverty.

“As a community retailer, we have seen an incredible response from groups over the last few months, and we are seeing some great co-operation across the region in adverse circumstances.

“It’s a right for all to have access to healthy food. Now and moving forward, it’s really important that those who need food receive it and that we pull together to build on that co-operation. It’s clearly time for action.”

MORE: WATCH: Timelapse video shows Suffolk before and after lockdown

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