Funding for Food Banks More Vital than Ever
Food banks across South Tyneside are playing an increasingly important role as the cost of living crisis continues to drag more people into financial difficulty.
With more and more people having to turn to community support, funding from South Tyneside Council to the Borough's five main food banks has never been so vital.
Since the Covid pandemic the Council has made significantly increased contributions to the five major food banks. A total of £118,000 will be used from the Household Support Fund to support food banks for 2023-2024 in a bid to target support to make life fairer for those at the sharp end of the crisis.
Soaring costs for energy and food are driving increasing numbers of people to food banks who have never before had to rely on help.
One woman walked two miles with her two toddlers to reach the Hospitality and Hope food bank only to collapse due to exhaustion and hunger. Despite both her and her husband being in work, their household outgoings virtually outstripped their collective income and they were no longer able to manage. The couple went without food to keep their children healthy.
The team from Hospitality and Hope arranged for a colleague to transport the family home so that emergency food support could be provided. As part of the Household Support Fund, which is administered by the Council, the couple were given access to support for gas so they could stay warm.
The family was signed up as a member of the Your Community Shop to provide longer term emotional and food support and, as slow cooking is the cheapest way to prepare meals, the family was also provided with a slow cooker.
Brian Thomas, Chief Executive at Hospitality and Hope said: "Our community is shifting in a seismic way, working people are entering deprivation at a scale previously unseen. It would be true to say that this young mother and her sad story impacted on our staff and volunteers. Unfortunately though, this is not an isolated case, we are seeing an increasing number of people similar to this family coming to us for support."
The Council launched a poverty commission almost two years ago - long before the cost of living crisis - to make sure it was doing all it could to support those living in difficult circumstances and to help prevent people falling into poverty. Together with partners, more than 60 Warm Spaces have been launched while the Council is also working on a number of other initiatives such as helping people to maximise their benefits and promoting partners' under-used hardship schemes.
The Council is using the latest phase of the Household Support Fund to help key groups such as those on low-incomes as well as those in work but just above the benefits line who are struggling and have benefitted less from national cost of living support schemes.
Councillor Ruth Berkley, Lead Member for the Voluntary Sector, Partnerships and Equalities, said: "Sadly, we know that the cost of living crisis is dragging more and more people into dire hardship. It is heart-breaking to hear of working people in South Tyneside having to live without the basics.
"We are committed to doing all we can to support people and have written to both central government and energy companies to ask them to do more to support our residents at the sharp end of this crisis."
A dedicated web page has been created where people can find out about the latest help and support available. To find out more about cost of living support visit www.southtyneside.gov.uk/costofliving