‘People haven’t got enough to survive’ - West Berkshire Foodbank demand more than triples in a year

  • ITV News Meridian's Kara Digby to volunteers at the foodbank about the demand

A community foodbank has been hailed as a lifeline as its volunteers say people have not got enough to survive.

Demand more than tripled over the summer at the West Berkshire Foodbank. Last year it fed almost 400 families a week in the school holidays but this year it surged to nearly 1500.

It has prompted an urgent appeal for extra funding for food, toiletries and also for mental health support with the Christmas holidays fast approaching.

Kelly Shaw attends a weekly foodbank session at Thatcham Baptist Church to help provide for her three children, including her 11-month-old baby, Louisa.She said: "Last year, I was heavily pregnant and on my own. I was homeless by no choice - I had to live in and out of a Premier Inn and Travelodge.

"It's hard because when you've got growing children you need nice food - and this provides vegetables, fruit, canned food and all sorts. So to me, it's a lifeline.

"I was ashamed of it but now I think it's brilliant. Everyone should know, if they need to use the foodbank, then use a foodbank."

  • Kara Digby spoke to a man who said the volunteers have helped get him through an emotionally tough year

A father started using the foodbank after developing arthritis and not being able to do his job anymore.

He said: "I've got nothing at all at home at the moment - I wouldn't have nothing if I didn't come to the foodbank."With my mental health, staying in all day, all the time, not going out, it just takes you deeper and deeper being depressed.

"Coming to the foodbank, having a cup of tea, chatting to the staff, they're all really nice, and it just makes me feel a lot better."

The foodbank is hoping to start offering cookery courses in the new year. Credit: ITV News Meridian

The team is seeking funding to buy items including air fryers, slow cookers and heated blankets.

It also looking to get mental health specialists in for people who use its services and for its volunteers.Lead volunteer, Sue Harrison said: "We're seeing people in long-term difficulty, they haven't got enough money to survive.

"A lot of them are working but they still don't have enough cash - people's mental health is being severely affected and so we're bringing in support - but that costs money.

"We are finding that people have to choose between food, electricity or heating their houses."

Benefits and welfare advisor, Amelia Gourlay said: "It is hard to switch off at the end of the day.

"They are in the back of your mind, wondering if they're being kept warm, or if they're being fed.

"They share so much with me so it can be quite a challenge sometimes just listening to their stories."

West Berkshire Foodbank says donations are always appreciated but to keep up with demand, it is seeking funding help from the public.

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