Cost of living: Food bank demand so high that charity must treble its services
Sharp End Presenter Rob Osborne meets the community volunteers offering a 'lifeline' to those in need
Demand for help with food poverty has risen so much that one charity has applied for lottery funding to expand and treble its services.
Every Thursday morning Angela Bullard and her husband open up the Old Library in Splott to offer people struggling to make ends meet food parcels, a hot breakfast and somewhere to keep warm.
Over the past year, they’ve seen demand grow so much that they’ve had to apply for lottery funding to expand the Splott Community Volunteers project to open three days a week.
Angela, who founded the service with her husband Fred, says they’re “only just” keeping up with demand.
"We're seeing more and more people coming in.
"We shall be moving to the Star Centre very soon simply because there isn't the space. Unless we've got the space we can't take on more food.
"It's very sad to see. But also some of our clients who come in don't really need food, they come because they want to support others. We helped over Christmas with provision for food parcels and toys. We are seeing more and more people coming in now worried about paying bills, so whatever we can do to help."
The charity receives donations from supermarkets and Greggs as well as buying food from Fareshare to help meet demand for food parcels. They offer service users food bags with fresh and tinned food for £3 and are seeing more people from all sorts of backgrounds coming to the charity.
Cllr Ed Stubbs, the charity chair, says people are now struggling who "you wouldn't expect to be struggling".
He said: "People are in food poverty that you wouldn't expect to be struggling. You really have to walk a mile in someone's shoes to understand the level of need out there. There's no atypical person anymore that comes to use our services."
The service provides more than just a hot meal. Those who come to the breakfast club enjoy each other's company and have a warm place to socialise.
“One of the difficult things about poverty is that it's really isolating,” Cllr Stubbs said.
"We bring people together, people will sit, have a chat over their breakfast. It's as much about mental wellbeing as it is about food support.
"Poverty makes people very depressed, feel very isolated and they come here, they see Angela, Fred and the volunteers and they feel better."
But the Splott ward councillor worries about what would happen if Angela and Fred didn't do what they are doing.
He added: "Something's got to happen - there's got to be a bigger intervention, politicians have got to think about this and ask that question. Apart from the random kind acts of strangers, if they didn't do this, what would we do?
"We can't have another winter like this one, we can't continue like this. Something more systematic has got to be put in place like accepting that poverty is traumatising and - as hard as these people work - you can't continue to rely on that and we've got to have a safety net again.
"There's always been an expectation in this country that there's a safety net and no one falls below a certain level. that has gone so we've got to reinstate something so people aren't constantly on the verge of empty cupboards.”
Helen, a former teacher, has been attending the breakfast club for more than a year.
She said: “During Covid I became homeless, so it's been a godsend for me, I do appreciate everything they've done here. To be honest I do not know what I would have done without this place.”
Service user Helen was forced to go into hostel accommodation after being made homeless and says people are really going through hard times while surviving the cost of living crisis.
She added: “I was a foster carer and a teacher. I've done my duty to society and there's nothing coming back, so things like this are a godsend. I get up at 5.30am to come here every week."
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