Soup kitchen fears for future as demand doubles in last month

By ITV News Central Journalist Barnaby Papadopulos

People begin queuing up outside a nondescript carpark in Birmingham's Digbeth just after 5pm - even though food won't be served for another one-and-a-half hours.

Volunteers at the community-run food bank and soup kitchen say it's a mark of how serious the crisis is.

Prices for food and fuel are going up, affecting people and their families across the city.

"The donations aren't as much as we used to get," said Nasrin.

"Everything is so expensive. People are starving - we've had a man in today who told us he's not ate for three days.

"There is more help needed from the public and there is a concern that numbers are rising and we just don't have enough food for everybody."

The country is gripped by a cost of living crisis. Inflation has reached a 30-year high, while wages are stagnant.

The cost of everyday items is fast outstripping the amount of money in people's pockets.

Today, the Prime Minister discussed the issue with Cabinet, urging them to seek "innovative" solutions to a problem he described as "household bills and living costs rising in the face of global challenges."

Zara Hussain said the amount of rice she needs to feed people has doubled recently

The kitchen serves all kinds of people and volunteers don't ask questions. Everyone is welcome. Some are rough sleepers, others are living in hostels or multi-occupancy buildings.

Increasingly, many are just private renters who, by the time bills have been paid, don't have enough cash left for food.

Stacey eats at the soup kitchen often, and leaves with takeaway boxes of curry and rice for herself and her partner, along with a basket of foodstuffs donated by local supermarkets and donors.

"It's like a family restaurant," she said, laughing.

"There's been an increase of people," she continued. "Because of the lockdown and because of the Covid going on, and lot's of people probably being evicted because of financial problems."

As evening draws on, some people return for seconds. Others take their pick of donated food and leave. Zara Hussain, who runs the operation here, reckons she has fed over 100 people tonight.

"We used to make about 5KG, 7KG of rice," she says. "But the last three or four weeks its 12KG of rice."

"That's every day."

There's no sign that prices are going to abate soon, and for many people soup kitchens like these are a lifeline - but that lifeline is coming under increasing strain.