Food banks in Cumbria and South Scotland warn of difficult winter as donations fall and demand rise

Food banks in the region are forecasting a "very very difficult winter" as the cost of living crisis drives up demand amid a fall in donations.

It comes as energy prices are set to rise in October and are predicted to increase further in January.

At Peebleshire Food Bank, shelves are reportedly emptying quicker during a time when the hub is experiencing a sharp drop in donations of all types of food.

Fiona Dalgleish, the food bank manager, said: "We are staring into an abyss of trouble unless government does something.

"I think there has to be some sort of intervention, and I think the repercussions are horrendous."

She continued: "Demand is still increasing. We have gone up 49% in demand overall, and the number of children that we are helping has gone up by 79%. We're seeing a drop in the number of donations that we are getting.

"Last week and the week before, we gave out double what we got back in. And, normally people donate through the supermarkets and when of course, they are affected by the credit crisis, too. So that is that is a worrying trend."

Anne-Marie Coulter from Summerhill Centre in Dumfries is urging people to look out for community groups, rather than struggle. Credit: ITV News Border

The Summerhill Centre in Dumfries said they were also starting to see a dip in donations.

They hand out hot meals to those in need, as well as provide low-cost healthy ingredients at their pantry.

For Anne-Marie Coulter, who works at the centre, time is of the essence.

"We can see it is going to be a very, very difficult winter," she said.

"What I would urge people, rather than struggle, is to look out for those community groups that are doing a lot and to get involved."

Ms Coulter believes that the fewer donations coming in may be down to more people helping wider members of their own family.

She said: "We are getting more donations of clothing, 'bric a brac', furniture.

"What we are doing is making sure that they can go back home to people that are more vulnerable, that are in need."

It is a similar story at the Salvation Army, in Penrith, which has been providing free meals for families during the summer holidays.

They said that despite people and businesses being very generous, they too are seeing an alarming rise in use.

"The people in Penrith are very generous and once you put something on the media that we need something, we get a good response," said support worker Heather Watson.

"We are not having it stored and in excess as we used to. It's going on the shelves and it is coming off the shelves."

Energy prices are set to rise in October and a further increased is predicted in January. Credit: ITV News Border

In West Cumbria, the North Lakes Food bank, which has bases across the region, say donations are on the rise - despite seeing more people access their services.

Jo Sutcliffe, the manager at the bank, said: "We find that the general public are amazingly, absolutely amazingly generous, and so we know we have not noted any change.

"We are getting financial donations. We are getting food donations.

"We have had collections, we have had fundraising opportunities ourselves, and everybody has been amazing. So our shelves are quite full at the moment."

She added: "It is a strange thing in the food bank, it is a bit up and down.

"It's a bit like a roller coaster. So no matter what is going on in the general world, you will get blips where you have a suddenly an influx of people and you will get a drop where there is not so many clients.

"So yes, it is on the rise, but not massively so."

A government spokesperson said: "We recognise people are struggling with rising prices which is why we are protecting millions of the most vulnerable people with at least £1,200 of direct payments, starting with the £326 cost of living payment, which has already been issued to more than seven million low income households.

"Through our £37bn support package all households will receive £400 energy payments while vulnerable people in England are also being supported by the Government's Household Support Fund - which was boosted by £500million - to help pay for essentials.

"As the Chancellor set out, appropriate preparations are also being made in order to ensure that any additional support or commitments on cost of living can be delivered as quickly as possible when the new Prime Minister is in place."

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