Why are so many people having to rely on food banks in Wales?

Watching Moustafa Iqbal stir the huge pot of beef stew in the kitchen at Sussex Street Christian Centre certainly gave me food for thought.

Why are so many people hungry and relying on food banks to meet their basic needs in Wales in 2022? Of course, the answers are as varied as the problem is complex. 

The Rhyl Food Bank, just off the town's High Street, was set up in 2019 in the most deprived, small area in Wales according to the Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation.

The neighbouring ward, Rhyl West in the second poorest area in Wales. So as this cost of living crisis begins to bite, people living here are less able to withstand the price hikes: food up 10% and more, and energy bills doubling with more financial strain to come.

The Rhyl Food Bank is now running a community cafe every Tuesday. Credit: ITV Wales

The food bank is now running a community cafe every Tuesday. Moustafa says he has seen demand grow recently as the Cost of Living hits those on the lowest incomes the hardest.

It is these visitors to the food bank and cafe who spend a higher percentage of their income on the basics: food and heating. They have fewer or no savings at all to fall back on. It's a precarious life. 

In Wales the figures are stark, 1 in 4 people living in poverty, that's 700,000 people.

For children, 3 in 10 live in poverty, that's 180,000 youngsters, with the vast majority, 140,000 living  in working households according to the Bevan Foundation think tank.

Listening to Rachel Round the food bank manager, she is keen to find out the challenges which have driven people through the doors. As a Christian, she is motivated by her faith to make a difference.

Rachel Round the food bank manager and is keen to find out the challenges which have brought people there. Credit: ITV Wales

There is certainly plenty to do. Rachel says it's so important to provide more than a hot meal or a bag of food. She's looking upstream to find out why people have fallen into hard times in the first place.

Sometimes it is relationship breakdown, or rent arrears and homelessness, or mental health issues. Living on a low income means you are much more likely to have poor health. 

Looking around the church, people here are chatting, meeting friends in similar circumstances and relaxing over a hot chocolate.

There's no judgement. For many clients, the acceptance and the company they find here is as important as the meal. Constantly budgeting on a low income is stressful.

It can be hard to join in the social things many of us take for granted, because they cost money people here just don't have. The cafe is a break from the strain.

Moustafa has big plans to ramp up provision to provide more community meals for more people including takeaways for families on a Friday. So the centre is fundraising for an industrial size cooking pot to help ease the months ahead for many. 

Half past 12, and Mo serves up his stew with a dollop of positivity and enthusiasm. It's clear people here know best what is needed. They live with the realities of political decisions made miles away and world events over which they have no control.

Local people are organising here to provide more support, and the community in Rhyl is very generous, keen to help meet the need they see on their doorstep.