Soaring price of butter means Somerset foodbank can't afford to buy it for users

The rising cost of living means one foodbank in Somerset has had to stop buying butter for its users because it is too expensive.

The Somerset foodbank run by Wells Vineyard Church has seen a huge spike in demand in the past three years.

In 2019, it handed out 9,000 meals. This year, it has already provided more than 46,000.

It says it is seeing huge demand from new clients and is in need of donations of money so it can keep up with the number of products needed to feed people.

The foodbank is run out of the former premises for the church, which has had to move elsewhere in the city because of how rapidly the charity has grown.

It packs boxes of food for the number of people in a household, providing three meals a day for three days a week. The rising cost of living is expected to add extra pressure onto it as families struggle to afford food.

Sue Marland is the senior pastor at the church and also manages the foodbank. She says rising costs are making things harder for everyone.

"We do eggs, we do cheese and we do some kind of spread," she said.

"We were doing butter, but that is an example of what's happening now - we actually can't afford to buy butter for our clients. It was very affordable during lockdown, but now it's just it's moved from £52 for a box of 40 to £75 for a box of 40."

Sue says the charity is feeding people from all walks of life, including many new clients and, worryingly, returning ones.

"They went off because they got jobs," she said. "They're still in work, but now they're not making ends meet. So that, I think, is what we're going to see more and more as people who are working, even couples who are both working, still not managing to feed their families on a weekly basis."

Volunteers work many hours to put together the parcels of food for local families and individuals

Volunteer Nicole Greenslade said demand has gone up "hugely".

"The days when we could give out our food parcels based purely on the donations of tins and packets have long gone," she said.

"Now we're spending £1,800 a month roughly every single month on groceries and essential items to supplement the amount of food that's being given in the bins.

"Our need is way beyond the amount of donated produce. We're giving out large amounts of food. The biggest thing we'd ask people to do is to go onto our website and find the information to make a donation."

Wells is a picturesque and mostly affluent place, but the beauty there hides a growing poverty problem that the city’s food bank is seeing at the frontline.

ITV News West Country asked two of its users to put their situations into words.

One said: "The increase in the cost of living has had a huge impact on me and my children and by the time my rent, council tax and electric is paid there’s barely anything left. I really do rely on our local food bank."

Another said: "Alongside other daily living costs, we are left with around £30 per week with which to buy food. Everything now costs more at a time when everyone has less money at their disposal. There have been weeks when the only food in my home is the food supplied by the food bank."

The charity receives great support, including from the local branch of NFU Mutual, which donated over £6,000 recently.

Phil Chalker from NFU Mutual said: "In 2022 we pledged over £1.9million to local charities. When we saw the plea for support from the foodbank and saw the great work it was an easy decision to put them forward as our nomination.

"They're spending thousands of pounds a month on food themselves on top of the donations they receive. So we know that our donation will only last a few months. So we hope we can just encourage other local organisations to consider gifting to the charity as well."

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