Foodbanks in the North East are at risk of breaking point as the cost-of-living crisis forced volunteers to distribute 67,000 emergency food parcels in a five-month period, with one local volunteer warning “anyone is vulnerable”.

New figures released today by the Trussell Trust reveal that 55 per cent more food parcels were provided to people across the region from April until September by foodbanks in the charity’s network compared to the same period in 2021.

Worryingly, 25,000 of the total number of parcels distributed were for children.

Foodbank co-ordinator Peter MacLellan, who oversees 28 foodbanks in County Durham and several others in Sunderland, says the charity has recently taken drastic measures to ensure it has enough food for the increasing number of people queuing at its doors.  

And with yet more figures showing the North East as one of the worst off in the country, he says foodbank usage is now part of the everyday reality for thousands of families.

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“Anyone is vulnerable. If people are living hand to mouth any sort of upset in costs is going to hit them hard. The current cost of living and energy rises are really having an impact.

“We still get people citing benefits and debt as issues why people are using our services but increasingly, we are seeing people talk about their low incomes as the reason why they are using the service,” he said.

“They are getting everything they are entitled to but still can’t make ends meet."

With need outstripping donations for the first time in its history, the charity has been forced to launch its first ever emergency appeal to ensure that foodbanks can meet the alarming level of need in their communities. 

In the North East, volunteers have seen a “notable decrease” in produce and are now buying food in bulk as an emergency after the donations dried up.

Mr MacLellan added: “We would occasionally have to buy specific items that we were short of but we have never bought in food at the rate we are buying it in now. We are spending between £5,000-10,000 a month.

“But we can weather the storm without any real grief and so far, we’ve never had to send someone away for a lack of food.”

The Northern Echo: Peter MacLellan says foodbank usage is now part of the everyday reality for thousands of North East familiesPeter MacLellan says foodbank usage is now part of the everyday reality for thousands of North East families (Image: The Northern Echo)

It isn’t just Trussell Trust foodbanks which are suffering however, as dozens of other community schemes ran by tireless volunteers are providing food parcels for those in need.

While donations are much-needed, people suffering hardship have been urged to get help as soon as they start to feel the pinch.

“Everybody needs to recognise that anybody could need a foodbank at the moment, and there’s no stigma attached to it,” Mr MacLellan said. “We just want people to come and get help.”

The charity warns that short-term interventions are neither sustainable for government nor dignified for people who are struggling, and they don’t solve the longer-term problem of people having to rely on food banks.

“All we need is the Government to do something in the Budget next week to transform people’s situations, but the omens are not good,” Mr MacLellan added.

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