Inverness food bank is the 'busiest it has ever been' as cost of living continues
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There has been a surge in people who are using food banks and free meal services in Inverness over the past 12 months.
Figures released by the Trussell Trust revealed that 1.5 million emergency food parcels were provided to people between April and September 2023 by food banks in the charity’s UK-wide network. This is the most parcels that the network has ever distributed at this point of the year and represents a 16 per cent increase from the same period in 2022.
Inverness Foodstuff, the charity providing three-course lunches for homeless and other vulnerable people on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays in Ness Bank Church continues to see high demand for its services.
Operations manager Pam Urquhart said: "Over the last 12 months we provided over 9917 three-course lunches, this is a 52 per cent increase on the previous 12 months. Normally during the summer months our numbers decrease. However, we saw no decrease this year.
"We know from speaking to the people who come to Inverness Foodstuff, high food prices mean that many are struggling to afford food. Sadly, there is no indication things are going to improve in the foreseeable future for those struggling financially.”
The Trussell Trust said that low incomes, especially from social security, debt, health conditions and issues with social security payments such as delays or sanctions were the main reasons people were left with no option but to turn to a food bank for help.
According to the charity a record 540,000 food parcels were provided for more than 265,000 children living in families across the UK who could not afford the essentials. This is an 11 per cent increase compared to the same period last year, reflecting the continuing rise in need for the support provided by food banks.
Furthermore, the charity reported that 320,000 people have needed to use a food bank for the first time in the past six months, warning that food banks are at ‘breaking point’ as more and more people in communities across the UK find themselves unable to afford the essentials.
The Salvation Army, in Tomnahurich Street, which runs a food bank each Wednesday and Friday from 9am-noon is the "busiest it ever has been".
Major Bruce Smith, a corps officer at The Salvation Army, said: "Demand is as high as ever and we are giving out 80 food parcels a week, which feeds around 160 people. We have given out 4000 parcels this year.
"I've been an officer for 32 years and this is the busiest we've ever been. Over the last 10 years things have changed exceptionally and since Covid hit things have got worse. The price of fuel is a big, big problem for people – we are encouraging them to heat their homes and pay their bills and, if they need food, to come to us."
Fellow corps officer Major Isobel Smith said: "By the time people have paid all their bills, they have nothing left for food. The numbers are increasing and we have all different types of people coming. But there is also still some people who really need it who don't come, as they have a lot of shame.
"People don't need a referral to come to us, and they can come along as much as they like.
"The public have been so generous, donating both money and food which we are so grateful for."
The Salvation Army will take food all year round along with donations of toilet rolls, tea and coffee.
The Trussell Trust believes the situation is unlikely to change in the coming months with the data leading them to forecast that food banks in their network will distribute more than a million emergency food parcels between December 2023 and February 2024 – the equivalent of providing a parcel every eight seconds this winter.
Emma Revie, chief executive at the Trussell Trust, said: “These statistics are extremely alarming. An increasing number of children are growing up in families facing hunger, forced to turn to food banks to survive. A generation is growing up believing that it’s normal to see a food bank in every community. This is not right.
“Rising hunger and hardship have devastating consequences for individuals and our communities, damage the nation’s health and hold back our economy. People in work, as well as people who cannot work, are increasingly being pushed into debt and forced to turn to a food bank to survive."
Inverness Foodstuff's drop-in café at Ness Bank Church, 1 Ness Bank, Inverness IV2 4SF is open on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays between 10am and 3pm. A simple breakfast is available from 10am to 11.30am.
Inverness Foodstuff, in partnership with High Life Highland, also provides lunches at Hilton Community Centre, Hilton Village, Oldtown Road, Inverness IV2 4HT on Wednesdays and Fridays between noon and 2pm.
If you are struggling financially to buy food and would like to talk to someone, call its telephone helpline on 07552 303056 which is open Monday-Friday from 9am-5pm and on Saturdays from 10am-1pm.