Penrith Salvation Army food bank running out of stock amid cost of living crisis

A food bank in Penrith is appealing to the public for support in restocking its shelves, as they're being "stripped bare" because of the cost-of-living crisis. 

The Salvation Army site in Penrith's Hunter Lane has seen its referrals shoot up in recent months with more people than ever saying they're struggling to afford enough food. 

Pam Hetherington is one person who is using it from time to time. She is working part-time but she still needs to visit the food bank when times get tough. 

"The price of living has gone up, energy prices have gone up," she says.

"I'm on prepayment meters and the amount of money that is going on the electric and the gas also. Petrol in my car because I need to get to work.

"You know it's a real sad state of affairs that this is happening in 2022, not just for myself as a single parent but for even families as well."

There is a growing demand for food from people struggling to cope as the cost of living increases.

In April there were more than 1,200 referrals to this service.

"It's the busiest I have ever known it," says Major Alan Donaldson, from the Salvation Army.

"I have been here for five years and so this has to be the busiest time and I'm expecting like everybody else that it will increase." 

The shelves can look relatively well-stocked but the people who work at the food bank say that changes quickly.

"The food on the shelves looks like we've got quite a lot but this will have gone by the end of this week," says Major Carole Donaldson.

"Then we obviously replenish the food with donations coming in so the demand varies every day so we never know exactly what we're going to face." 

Volunteers help to get supplies ready for those in need.

"You see someone coming to the door to collect a food parcel and they are so grateful for what they are receiving. It's just heart touching really," says Sue Walker. 

Her colleague, Caroline Hodgson, adds: "Different walks of life are finding it hard, nowhere to stay and such things. They don't go into the deep depths of their life, unless they want to talk and we'll listen to them." 

The Salvation Army says it needs people to keep on donating food to restock these shelves as they're quickly being stripped bare. 

But many donors are also feeling the pinch so Cumbria County Council has set aside money to support food banks.  

County Council Leader, Councillor Stewart Young explains: "We're allocating about £200,000 where the County will use its purchasing power - we can buy food at cheaper prices than on the high street just to give some support to our food banks over the next few months."

For many people like Pam, food banks like this are proving to be a lifeline. 

"They just help us out whenever we need it and whenever I need extra food. It's a Godsend really, absolutely a Godsend," she says.