Foodbank forced to consider its future due to soaring demand for food parcels

Angela Jones, Volunteer Co-ordinator at St Catherine's Church Centre Foodbank.''Picture Scott Merrylees
Angela Jones, Volunteer Co-ordinator at St Catherine's Church Centre Foodbank.''Picture Scott Merrylees

A food bank that is expected to receive record numbers of referrals this year has said it must consider its future because of soaring demand.

St Catherine’s on Doncaster Road has become one of the city’s most prolific food banks since opening in 2012, handing out emergency food parcels to those struggling to make ends meet.

But with those in need expected to continue rising, workers at the charity fear they may have to fold or cut back simply because they are unable to cope with demand.

Centre manager Lisa Grant said they had more than 5,000 referrals last year, but are on course for more than 8,000 in 2019.

She said: “We are absolutely desperate, our shelves are really bare and we’re wondering if its going to be sustainable.

“The increased demand is also resulting in additional financial costs to our charity which we are not going to be able to sustain in the medium to longer term.

“Without increased financial support we will have to look at ways to reduce costs significantly.

“At the current time, demand is unprecedented with more and more people visiting our food bank and requiring longer-term support.

“We are currently in the process of developing a new database that will be able to provide details of where people are being referred from and numbers.”

Open from Monday to Friday, 11am to 1pm, Mrs Grant says one option to cut costs could be to reduce hours and cut back on some of the emergency food provision they provide, such as soup and hot drinks.

She says that the food bank has 20 volunteers who are working flat out when the doors are open, meeting ‘one person after another’.

She added: “The number of people accessing our food bank is difficult to manage physically and it is having an impact on other activities and services within the centre.

“Volunteers are also having to deal with more and more complex and at times, heart-breaking issues that are being faced by our service users and this can take a toll on them mentally.

“We try as much as we can to signpost all our service users to other agencies who can help with issues like debt, mental illness, homelessness, domestic violence or addiction, but the numbers of people now accessing our service make it very difficult for us to be able to spend the time required with each person.”

The introduction of the controversial Universal Credit benefits system has had an impact on the food bank, but Mrs Grant says many are simply able to cope with the increasing cost of living.