Hungry people given food parcels are sending them back because they are too poor to pay for the electricity to heat them up, says a local foodbank.
The shocking truth is being repeated across the country at foodbanks designed to help families and individuals in crisis and unable to pay for even basic food items.
On November 1, a client at the Morecambe Bay Foodbank, which was set up in January of this year to help the needy, could not accept a food parcel because he had no money to pay for the gas or electricity to heat the food.
Annette Smith, foodbank coordinator, said: “We have been doing kettle boxes for a while, which just need hot water from a kettle which is quick and easy.
“In this case, the client could have the food parcel, but many items were not appropriate as they needed some form of heating.
“We adapted the parcel taking into account that all food had to be eaten cold. All our parcels contain non perishable food with a mixture of what can be eaten hot and food that can be eaten cold.
“Things are getting pretty desperate.
“We are getting more families referred to us and the food has to be adapted to their needs.
“We provide baby milk and baby food, nappies and wet wipes, toiletries, packed lunches and the occasional treat. We see people pacing outside the door embarrassed to come in.
“But everyone gets a warm welcome and everyone is met by a volunteer who sits and makes them feel more comfortable and reassures them that they are not the only ones.
“We need to make everyone aware of the foodbank because we need to reach as many people as possible that need the facility.”
Wayne Clinton, of Disability Online, said: “Npower, Eon, British Gas, and all the others need to see what people are having to do and choose between.
“Heat or eat shouldn’t be a choice it should be natural, people should be able to eat and heat without worrying. Cost of food is going up and up but wages and benefits are not and my greatest fear is that people will no longer be able to donate food because they will not be able to buy the extra.
“We all need to stand together and tell those in power enough is enough, we can’t allow people to die because they cant afford to heat or eat.”
Morecambe Bay Foodbank, a Trussell Trust foodbank, has given out 1,500 food parcels since opening only ten months ago.
Demand has been increasing monthly since the project opened its doors in January.
Annette Smith, foodbank coordinator, said: “We knew there was going to be a demand for the food parcels but I don’t think any of us expected it to be as great as it has been.”
Clients in need of food have to apply for a voucher from an agency such as Citizens’ Advice Bureau or Help Direct and then take the voucher to the foodbank, in Green Street, Morecambe.
“With the voucher system we can be sure, to the best of our ability, that people are in genuine need,” said Annette.”
The food arrives at the foodbank, in the Gym Methodist Church, from many different sources.
The project, staffed entirely by volunteers, also run collections at local supermarkets and have drop-off points at Sainsbury’s in Lancaster and the Poulton Children’s Centre in Clark Street, Morecambe.
Donations, non-perishable food and essential toiletries, can be brought to the Foodbank in Green Street in Morecambe on Tuesdays and Fridays between 10am and 1pm.
For more information call Annette Smith, Morecambe Bay Foodbank Coordinator on 07591 763 130, visit http://morecambebay.foodbank.org.uk/ or email firstname.lastname@example.org