In Hartlepool there are children who see use of town's foodbank as 'normal', charity says
Families in Hartlepool are being forced to choose between paying their electricity bills and putting meals on the table, according to one of the organisers at the town’s foodbank.
On Friday, December 6 Action for Children revealed in official figures that four pupils in each primary school class in the North East will be deprived of the basics, including a warm winter coat, fresh food and heating at home this Christmas.
And in Hartlepool, the coordinator of the town’s foodbank has spoken of her frustration and heartbreak that so many children see the process of using the bank’s services as “normal”.
Abi Knowles spoke to the Mail as Action for Children’s research showed that there are almost 55,000 children under 10 living in low-income families across the region.
The town’s heartbreak
Opening in 2012, Hartlepool Foodbank has a distribution centre in Church Street and warehouse at Middleton Grange shopping centre.
And while Abi has recognised the valuable work carried out by her team, as well as those who make donations, she has said the fact that foodbanks are necessary shows that “something is not right with the system”.
“It’s really heartbreaking to see that some kids know the process,” she continued.
“It’s great that we exist, but to have us be a normal part of society is just a struggle.”
Many families are struggling following a decade of austerity and ongoing problems with universal credit - and Action for Children’s latest research shows parents below the breadline are able to spend just £2 a day, on average, per child on food.
At this price, they can struggle to afford nutritious food, which is vital for health and development.
Hartlepool was one of the first areas in the country to go over to Universal Credit Full Service – something which Abi says has had an affect on people who use the foodbank’s facilities.
She continued: “They haven’t got enough money to make ends meet, at the end of the day they are getting less than they were before.
“People have to make a choice between putting their lights on or buying food. There’s something not right with the system.”
There are no free school meals on offer during the school holidays - and it is this void which leaves many worse-off families struggling to provide for their children.
A typical primary school meal in the UK costs £2.30 a day, according to the research.
An age of austerity
According to Action for Children, at least 50 of its services across the country have provided foodbank support over the past year and with demand so high, the charity is planning to host unofficial foodbanks again over the festive season.
The charity also runs a “Secret Santa” campaign to collect donations for those who need them.
John Egan, director for England at Action for Children, has called on the next Government to deliver policies which will end child poverty.
He said: “No parent in the North East should have to face the awful prospect of their youngster sitting in the cold without a plate of food to eat at the end of a school day, or skip dinner themselves so their child has a meal.
“Politicians are telling us austerity has ended but every day at Action for Children our frontline services say child poverty levels are at the worst they can remember.
“While some families will spend the Christmas holidays putting their children to bed early to keep warm because they can’t afford to heat the house, for others it has become the norm to not have a winter coat, rely on foodbanks, or for their children to miss out on hot meals.”
How you can help the Hartlepool Foodbank
Hartlepool Foodbank’s warehouse is based at Middleton Grange and is open on Tuesdays and Fridays between 10am and 12pm.
To access the warehouse, drive up the ramp at the back of the car park opposite the One Life Centre and ask for the foodbank on the intercom.
The team has been inundated with festive food donations, but is still looking for “everyday” items such as pasta, rice, tinned fruit, rice pudding, custard and tinned meat and fish.
Contact Hartlepool Foodbank on 01429 598404 to organise a donation.