Newcastle food bank saw demand for parcels increase by 210% during lockdown

West End Food Bank, Newcastle Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

A Newcastle Food bank, once described as the busiest in the country saw a 210% increase in the number of food parcels being handed out during lockdown.

The Newcastle West End Food Bank gave out 20,100 parcels at the height of the Covid-19 restrictions, between April and July this year.

Nationally, the number of people using food banks for the first time has increased because of the virus crisis, new research reveals.

The Trussell Trust which runs a network of more than 1,000 food banks, including the West End Food Bank in Newcastle, said its study suggested that families with children are being hit the hardest during the pandemic.

However, John McCorry, CEO at Newcastle's West End Food Bank said young people, especially men, were also badly affected:

We've seen an increase in families, but equally we've seen a rise in the number of young men needing to come to the food bank, perhaps part of the reason is the issue around furlough. The hospitality industry being hit significantly by lockdown and Covid. Perhaps a lot of these younger people, just starting out on their career paths suddenly find out that's come to a halt.

John McCorry, CEO, Newcastle West End Food Bank

An analysis carried out by Heriot-Watt University with support from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, estimated there is likely to be a 61% rise in need at Trussell Trust food banks this winter.

The charity warned that with mass unemployment being predicted there will be further rises in poverty with 670,000 additional people classed as destitute by the end of 2020, meaning they cannot afford essentials like housing, energy and food.

Denise Hunter from Newcastle is out of work due to longterm health issues, she says she simply 'couldn't live' without the food bank:

By the time you get Universal Credit and you pay all of your bills, you've got nothing left, so if I didn't come to the food bank we wouldn't be able to live.

Denise Hunter

Denise says even if you have money in your pocket, it is still difficult to buy essentials:

If you have any coppers left, none of the shops are open and half of them don't take money, so you've got to hope that the food bank is open and has what you are looking for. It's because [money] it's unclean and I thought 'wear gloves and you can hand the money over' but no.

Denise Hunter

Well before Covid-19 hit the UK, food banks in the Trussell Trust network had been seeing year-on-year increases in levels of need, with 1.9 million emergency food parcels given out in 2019/20.

As the pandemic struck, the Trust said it saw an immediate and sustained surge in need across its food banks:

In April there was an 89% increase in the number of emergency food parcels given out compared with the same month in 2019, including a 107% increase in the number of parcels given to children.

Trussell Trust

The latest data shows that almost 100,000 households received support from a food bank in the Trussell Trust network for the very first time between April and June.

The report added that rises to some benefit levels and the job retention scheme prevented many more people from facing destitution, but warned that with these schemes set to end, the Government must continue to take action.

Emma Revie, chief executive of the Trussell Trust, said: "Communities throughout the country have shown enormous resilience in helping more people than ever before, but food banks and other community charities cannot continue to pick up the pieces. None of us should need a charity's help to put food on the table.

"Our research finds that Covid-19 has led to tens of thousands of new people needing to use a food bank for the first time. This is not right.

"If we don't take action now, there will be further catastrophic rises in poverty in the future.

"The pandemic has exposed the power of what happens when we stand together in the face of adversity.

"With the furlough scheme set to wind down, we must act now to put in place protection for each other.

''The Budget and Comprehensive Spending Review present a pivotal opportunity to put things right.

"We must take it to help us weather the storm left in the wake of Covid-19."

Newcastle West End Food bank handed out more than 20,000 parcels during lockdown. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

A Government spokesman said: "We have provided £9.3 billion extra welfare support to help those most in need, including increasing Universal Credit by up to £20 a week, as well as introducing income protection schemes, mortgage holidays and additional support for renters.

''Meanwhile, since mid-March we've supported 3.9 million claims to Universal Credit and made 1.3 million advance payments to people who could not wait.

"We have already taken steps to help ease the burden of Universal Credit debt repayments including reducing the maximum deduction from 40% to 30% off a claimant's standard allowance.

''From October 2021 we will reduce this further to 25%, and we will double the time available to repay an advance to 24 months.''