Hartlepool Foodbank feels the pressure of benefit system as demand grows and stocks run low

Hartlepool's Food Bank co-ordinator Abi Knowles is in need of more donations
Hartlepool's Food Bank co-ordinator Abi Knowles is in need of more donations

Hartlepool foodbank has handed out more than 2,000 emergency food parcels this year to people in financial crisis as demand for help increases.

Stocks are currently running low at the charity after giving out 7.3 tonnes of food in just the last three months.

McColl's area managers Mike Johnson and Rob Dunn (R) hand over funds to Hartlepool's Food Bank co-ordinator Abi Knowles following a sponsored walk

McColl's area managers Mike Johnson and Rob Dunn (R) hand over funds to Hartlepool's Food Bank co-ordinator Abi Knowles following a sponsored walk

Foodbank coordinator Abi Knowles said the roll out of the new benefit Universal Credit means people are waiting longer for payments, forcing them to seek help to feed them and their families.

Although the foodbank says it is helping roughly the same amount of people, they are helping them for longer, leading to higher demand.

Abi said: “We have definitely been busier since December when the roll out of Universal Credit started in Hartlepool, and we have seen a bigger proportion of parcels but also more repeat people coming back beyond the initial inquiry just because of the long waiting period for a payment.

“That’s definitely affecting the amount of food we are giving out which has had a knock on effect on how much we have got left at the moment.”

One thing we have noticed is more families coming, probably as a result of Universal Credit being rolled out

Abi Knowles, Hartlepool Foodbank coordinator

Since January, the foodbank, in Church Street, has accepted 1,494 food vouchers which have been turned into parcels to feed 2,667 people.

They include 792 young people aged under 17.

Abi added: “People are coming to us with a much, much wider range of issues.

“It is not just simply their benefits have been stopped or they have been sanctioned.

“One thing we have noticed is more families coming, probably as a result of Universal Credit being rolled out.”
And it is not just people who are out of work who turn to the foodbank for help.

“A lot of people are in insecure work such as zero hour contracts,” added Abi.

“People find it impossible to go from one month to the next with certainty.

“They get to the end of the month and can’t make ends meet so it is a choice between buying food, or paying the rent and bills.

“One pregnant lady came to us who was scraping by on her partner’s wage.”

The foodbank is hoping for a boost to stocks in the run up to Christmas.

Abi said: “Stocks are pretty low at the moment. We hope it will pick up a bit in the next couple of months otherwise we will be struggling.”

And she is appealing for any schools, businesses or churches holding collections for the harvest to consider making a donation to the charity.

“We would be absolutely thrilled and would happily pick them up and can give talks or assemblies,” said Abi.

Anyone who wants to help the foodbank can call (01429) 598404 or email: info@hartlepool.foodbank.org.uk

Generous donation for foodbank but there still chance to give more

Foodbank surplies are set to be boosted thanks to a generous £1,300 cash donation from McColl’s shop bosses.

McColl’s area manager for Hartlepool Michael Johnson and Rob Dunn for Stockton and Middlesbrough presented the money to Hartlepool Foodbank.

It was the proceeds from a fun 14-mile sposored walk that they and about 20 McColl’s colleagues completed between Blackhall and Hartlepool in August.

They were dressed as items of food to add to the fun and raise awareness of the foodbank.

Rob said: “As part of a development management programme we were given the task of understanding the value of being a community champion.

“As a group of senior managers we chose to support the foodbank because it was a nationwide charity, but is also unique to the community like McColl’s.”

Michael added: “The walk was really encouraging. Local people really joined in by peeping their horns becaue we were dressed as a jar of mustard, a chilli and strawberry.”

Abi said the gift was “amazing” and wil be used to replenish stocks.

From Monday, Hartlepool McColl’s branches in Elwick Road and Northgate will have collection bins for the foodbank.