Food bank reports rising demand for meals prepared with just a kettle

Coventry food bank supplies
People accessing food banks are asking for food donations which can be prepared with hot water Credit: PA

By ITV News Central Correspondent Phil Brewster

A food bank says clients are increasingly asking for foods which can be prepared with just hot water, as people already turning to them for help struggle with the rocketing cost of living.

Hugh McNeil, project manager at Coventry food bank, is concerned, because it's not a sustainable diet.

"All you need is some boiling water and a pack to make up something to eat but it's not a long-term solution for living on because it's mainly noodles and pasta.

"It's not a balanced diet and people need need to have a balanced diet these days."

In response, the charity has created what they call 'kettle packs' containing foods like Pot Noodles and packet soups - as their clients struggle to afford the energy to prepare more substantial and nutritious meals.

Microwave meals are also increasingly in demand because using the hob or oven is just too expensive.

Over the past 12 months alone many food banks have seen a rise in the numbers coming through their door from anywhere between 10%-22%.

In Oakham in Rutland, the manager of one food bank, Ally Wainwright said, "We've got people who are saying, I wouldn't have thought this time last year when I was putting things in your donation basket, I'd be coming to you for help this time round."

They prepare seventy food parcels a day - more than double the amount just two years ago.

Volunteer Sue Brown says for those who've never asked for help in their lives, having to admit they can longer cope is painful

She says "We had an older couple who'd worked all their lives, retired, ended up having a cup of tea with us.

Sue says people in work are increasingly approaching her for help. One was a veterinary nurse.

"A veterinary nurse." she said. "Needs a food bank."

A phrase staff at food banks often use is that people are 'having to choose between heating or eating.'

Moreover, many people have so little room for manoeuvre when it comes to their finances that if the car breaks down or the boiler packs up and they have to pay to get it fixed, they have nothing left over for food. 

Despite the prevalence of food banks there is still a stigma attached to using them.

Many people speak to staff at food banks of the 'sense of shame' they feel at not being able to manage.

And that they somehow 'feel a failure' at not being able to provide for themselves or their families.

Food bank supplies ready to help the hundreds now needing their support Credit: ITV News Central

In Oakham, Philip Wolf first came to the food bank six weeks ago.

"It's either food or heat the house," he said. "In the twenty-first century I thought we'd moved past that."

There are stories of people approaching food banks for the first time who've not eaten for days.

Others break down in tears - either due to the strain they've been under, or the sense of relief at finally being able to talk to someone about their problems.

Food banks are also noticing a drop off in donations.

Some of it is down to people donating food for Ukrainians fleeing war.

But much of it, volunteers say, is due to people who've previously donated food, now having to look at their own circumstances and thinking, 'Can I afford to donate, because I might need that food myself?'

In some respects the real picture may not emerge for a while as the higher energy bills have yet to land on the doormat.

One food bank volunteer described it as "the spectre of starvation coming this way."

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