Back our food banks: No class barriers

VITAL SERVICE: Mark Hirst in the Burnley Food Bank warehouse

VITAL SERVICE: Mark Hirst in the Burnley Food Bank warehouse

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A STARTLING 102 food parcels had to be delivered to Burnley families in just one week this month.

The shocking figure, up a staggering 90 from the same period last year, demonstrates just how big a problem Burnley Food Bank is currently facing.

And with a whole raft of benefit changes set to sweep the country from April, Mark Hirst, a director at East Lancashire Community Solutions where the food bank is run from, believes these figures are set to get even worse.

“There are so many changes coming in that are going to have such a big impact,” he said. “Changes to benefits, housing benefits, crisis loans. We are trying to assess the need and see what we can do.

“We have spoken to people on a county level and they not sure yet exactly how the changes are going to affect people. We can only estimate how much of an impact it is going to have but we imagine that the figures are going to continue to rise.”

More than 40 volunteers help with the running of the food bank, dealing with people through a strict referral system run in conjunction with 120 agencies including schools, children centres, Calico, Help Direct and hospitals.

The food bank is not just there for those on low income though, emphasises Mr Hirst.

“We do get a lot of people on low income but there is a wide range of people affected. It’s not the stereotypical type of people coming to the food bank for help. It can be anybody. It can be people who are just adjusting to circumstances and may need help for a couple of weeks, families who have been hit by an unexpected bill at the end of the month.

“So many people who comes to us saying they have never had to ask for charity before. If your cupboards are empty and you have children to feed then two days is two days too long.”

Unlike other services Burnley Food Bank is not interested in just offering a quick fix and organisers are keen to ensure people who use the bank receive long-term help.

“We don’t just want to give out food, we want to help get to the bottom of the problem. Because we are in contact with a lot of agencies it means we are able to refer people back to authorities who are able to help them in the long term.

“We want to do it in a professional way. We want to try to be part of the solution.”

Anybody wishing to donate items or volunteer their time can do so by visiting www.communitysolutionslancashire.co.uk or ringing 01254 352591.