Demand is soaring for Gloucestershire foodbanks
DEMAND for emergency food in Gloucester is reaching crisis point as the number of ration packs being distributed in the city has almost doubled this year.
From April 1, 2012 to April 1 this year, 2,200 food parcels were distributed from the Gloucester Food Bank in Great Western Road, part of the Trussell Trust.
In the past six months since April, 2,000 packages have already been snapped up.
Volunteers at the Gloucester centre have had to start making up cold food packages, as some people have no means to cook food due to spiralling energy costs.
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"It really is a case of heat or eat for some people we are seeing in Gloucester," said manager Anneliese Sterry.
"The figures show it is a problem getting worse, mainly due to the increased cost of living for many people.
"It is the children who are suffering the most. A third of the people we are helping are under the age of 16.
"But other vulnerable people are also feeling the effect. If people cannot eat regular healthy meals, that will have a knock-on effect to their own health. It is a real problem.
"We have seen some serious cases such as people with serious medical conditions like Type 1 diabetes. One woman had no means to heat food up or cook."
Last year, the charity in Gloucester handed out, on average, 1.5 tonnes of food every month. This year, the average has leapt to 2.5 tonnes, leading Food Bank managers to begin the search for larger premises to keep up with demand.
Changes to the way benefits are handed out are also having an impact. Foodbank users must fill out a brief questionnaire asking why they are using the facility. The most common factor seen this year is changes to benefits.
Paul Woodward, who manages the Forest of Dean Foodbank operation said demand has become so high, a third distribution centre is opening in the district later this month.
He said: "We have 50 volunteers in the Forest, working from centres in Coleford and Cinderford and soon in Lydney.
"In summer we ran out of food, but we are getting our stocks back up now. Changes to benefits are the main driving force behind demand. It can delay people's money by two weeks and that causes problems."
Nationally, more than 350,000 people received a three-day food package from the Trussell Trust between April and September, three times as many as in the same period last year.
The Gloucester Foodbank in Great Western Road is open on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from noon to 3pm, and on Thursday 11.30am to 2.30pm.