Keep Us Warm This Winter campaign: Food banks braced as Lancashire's most needy are hit

Lancashire’s most needy could soon need even more support as a ‘perfect storm’ of problems looks set to hit.

Many of the region’s food banks have seen a fall in donations since the start of the year, but need continues to rise.

They are now braced for even more referrals as the effects of revised Universal Credit, the end of the furlough scheme, a national food supply problem and hiked energy prices all hit at the same time.

The Lancashire Post, along with our sister titles across JPI Media, has launched our Keep Us Warm This Winter campaign, calling on the Government to ensure all necessary steps are taken to protect consumers, particularly the vulnerable and those low incomes.

Organising the food supplies at Living Waters

“It’s a crucial time”, said Simon Bass, deputy co-ordinator at the Living Waters Church food bank , which issues parcels to around 50 families every week in Chorley.

>>>Click here to read how £30,000 donated by Chorley Guardian readers revamped Living Waters food bank.

He said: “We noticed last month an increase in referrals slightly unexpectedly, but we know that people are coming off furlough and we are seeing the effects of changes to Universal Credit. It is a perfect storm. On Tuesday we saw four new people who had never been to us before.”

In response to the pandemic, a temporary £20 increase to universal credit payments was introduced by the Government.

The scheme officially ends on October 6, despite appeals from several MPs.

>>>Click here to read how Universal Credit changes are affecting families in Lancashire.

Simon added: “That £20 a week is a lot for many families and then there’s fuel poverty. If people are struggling now, then any increase to fuel prices is going to have a devastating impact.”

The food bank offers tinned, dried and fresh produce, toiletries, nappies, baby food and pet food for people in need. Much of its fresh food is supplied by local supermarkets looking to offload short-dated items.

The concern now is that if a shortage of C02 causes a food supply problem, and supermarket shelves are stripped bare, there won’t be anything left over to donate.

>>>Click here to read why people are concerned Christmas Dinner could be cancelled this year.

Simon said: “When lockdown first happened in March 2020, we saw then dramatic changes in terms of the goods coming in. People just didn’t know what was going on and what they could afford to donate.

“Last October we were worried about school holiday hunger, but then Marcus Rashford saved the day with his campaign. But while people are generous, memories fade, but the problems do not. We are hoping that harvest time at local churches and schools helps us out, but we do really need people to keep donating what they can.”

John Atkins, a volunteer at the Penwortham Churches Together Food Bank, is also hoping that the harvest festival swells donations.

He said: “Donations have gradually tailed off. It’s been very good in the last 18 months, particularly in the run up to Christmas because people were very much aware that others were in trouble. But we’ve not had as many donations recently.

“This time of year, we tend to get churches and schools bringing donations in because of harvest and we’re trying to keep pushing on Facebook.”

Mr Atkins said an expected food shortage problem has not yet hit donations in Penwortham, but it was a concern.

He added: “Changes to Universal Credit are bound to affect people who use our food bank and people who are on benefits are the ones most likely to be on the worst energy tariffs or even pre-payment cards. Any energy price hike would have a great impact on these families.”

Where to donate:

Penwortham Churches Together: Donate on Friday from 8am to 12pm at Kingsfold Community Centre, Kingsfold Drive.

The food bank is open for parcels from 9.30am till 12pm.

Living Waters Storehouse: Donate at Living Waters Church, 33-45 Bolton Street, Chorley, from 10am to 12pm on Mondays and Thursdays.

The food bank is open for referrals from 10am to 2pm on Tuesdays and Fridays.

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