BURNLEY’S “hidden hungry” are in desperate need of help.
This shocking plight was highlighted at a meeting held in town where organisations met to look at ways of co-ordinating a response to the growing problem.
In the past two weeks, 78 food parcels have had to be handed out to families, predominantly in the Burnley area, through a food bank run by non-profit organisation Community Solutions Lancashire.
And director Mr Mark Hirst, who spoke at the meeting, said the problem was getting worse.
He said: “In 2011 we gave out parcels to between 1,500 and 1,600 people. That was an average of 20 parcels a week. Already this year we’re averaging 35 parcels a week.
“I didn’t realise when I started doing this over a year ago how big the problem was. We deliver food to people in need, people referred to us by agencies such as Calico and Help Direct.
“We are only scratching the surface though and a lot more can be done to help.”
A presentation was given by Lynda Battarbee from the Trussell Trust – a Christian charity which specialises in setting up food banks.
A Trussell Trust food bank is a building in town, staffed by volunteers who give out bags of food to help individuals or families in immediate need for up to three days.
Representatives from churches and voluntary groups talked about how they offered similar services but on a smaller scale and Miss Battarbee said the idea of a more streamlined service with a Trussell Trust food bank in town was something that needed to be carefully considered
“This is an issue that is prevalent and that is all around us and we are here to meet the need of what we call the hidden hungry. We are here to reach out to people who are living at home but are not able to make ends meet for whatever reason. Many people are just one paycheck away from a crisis.
“We don’t hope to solve every problem in Burnley but we can help one person or one family at a time.”
Burnley MP Gordon Birtwistle thought the idea of a streamlined food bank service was excellent.
“I think it’s fantastic and if this goes ahead it can only be good for the town,” he said. “It’s good they only give out food and not money because then people are getting what they need and are not spending the money on anything else.”
Miss Battarbee added: “There are lot of options and I think one of them is to set up a Trussell Trust food bank with a referral to Mark’s Community Solutions. I think this would be a good way forward as we are able to deal with people facing a crisis there and then while Mark and his team can work with them for longer.
“If all that comes out of this meeting though is a way of getting things more streamlined then that is good.”
Another meeting is being scheduled for the end of April where a decision on what the next step will be is expected.
Anybody wanting to read up on The Trussell Trust can visit www.trusselltrust.org while anyone looking for information on Community Solutions Lancashire can ring 01254 352591 or visit communitysoutionslancashire.co.uk.