'We're feeding people on furlough': Preston foodbank sees spike in demand

A record number of desperate people are turning to foodbanks in Lancashire as the Covid pandemic puts an even tighter squeeze on family budgets.

By Brian Ellis
Friday, 6th November 2020, 7:00 am

One charity says there has been a “huge” increase in demand for grocery handouts caused by workers being furloughed or made redundant.

But, while need has risen, donations have fallen because fewer folk are venturing out due to the lockdown.

“We are seeing more individuals and families - parents who are working - who never ever thought they would find themselves in this position,” said Capt Debbie Eaton at the Salvation Army in Preston.

Claire Bowerman at the Salvation Army Foodbank

“Some are quite embarrassed about using a foodbank. But then things are tougher for a lot of people at the present time.”

The Salvation Army has had to launch its annual Christmas Appeal early this year to allow a 72-hour quarantine period for toys and gifts before they can be handled by staff and wrapped up. It needs the toys by November 27.

In a normal festive period the church supplies hundreds of bags of food and presents to the city’s needy. This year, despite the emergence of a number of other foodbanks across Preston during the coronavirus crisis, staff still expect demand to be greater than ever.

“When we first went into lockdown in March we experienced a big increase in the need for support, while donations went down,” explained Capt Eaton. “People couldn’t physically access goods in shops and so the first two or three weeks were quite difficult.

Volunteer David Bowerman at the Salvation Army Foodbank

“Things have stabilised a little bit since then. But other foodbanks have been set up during this year and community groups have responded in different ways to help the situation.

“So if you look at it overall there has clearly been a huge increase in need across the city.

“There are people who have spent time on furlough who need help. Even 80 per cent is a significant drop in income and that leaves a big gap. There are also those who now find themselves out of work because of the pandemic.

“All are individuals and families who wouldn’t normally find themselves in this situation. They are incredibly grateful for the support they receive, but we suspect that at Christmas there will be even more need than usual.”

Claire Bowerman at the Salvation Army Foodbank

The Salvation Army is urging people to donate if they can to help feed hungry families and bring them some joy over the festive period.

“We wouldn’t encourage anyone to break the lockdown, but if people are doing essential shopping and are able to buy something extra we would be very grateful,” said Capt Eaton.

“We all know how generous the people of Preston are to support the needy. We wouldn’t be able to do what we do if it wasn’t for the generosity of the public in this city.

“Will we be able to meet the demand this year? Well, as a church we have faith that we will have enough to provide what is asked of us.”

The Salvation Army worship and community centre is in Harrington Street, Preston. Food and gifts can be left there between 10am and 1pm on Monday to Friday. Details of how to donate can be found on the church’s Facebook page.

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