DEMAND for handouts from a Basildon food bank could grow four-fold in the next year – leaving organisers fearful they won’t be able to cope.
Lee Chapel North Community Centre’s food bank, in Ballards Walk, Laindon, says it is seeing a growing demand for its services – including many who are in work, but so poorly paid they can’t afford enough food to survive.
In the first six months of 2013, volunteers gave out 52 food parcels. In the first three months of this year, they have issued 126.
John McKay, who runs the food bank, says he sees no sign of demand reducing.
He explained: “If it keeps going the way it is going and too many people come to us at one time, we will run out of food very quickly.
“We are desperate for funding to give us a back-up, so if there is a big surge, we can buy the food to feed them.
“People come to us, saying they have a job but don’t have enough to pay for food.
“Most are on minimum wage, or zero-hours contracts.
Sometimes they’re expected to turn up for work, just to see if they are needed that day – and if they aren’t, they don’t get paid.
“According to the unemployement statistics, if you’re in that situation, you have a job, so you don’t get jobseeker’s allowance.
“Everyone we talk to wants a job. If any politician says this is not happening, they should just stand outside our place and see.”
Lee Chapel North councillor Nigel Smith, leader of the Labour group on the council, said: “It’s a dreadful situation.
People who are working need to be treated properly.
“We need to get rid of zero hours contracts, pay people a living wage and work with trade unions. People who are working shouldn’t need to be using food banks.”
However, Tory Phil Turner, who is deputy leader of the council and represents Billercay West is sceptical.
He said: “So much anecdotal evidence is given about who is accessing food banks. but until you can see who is suffering and why, it is open to speculation.
“Labour is trying to pull the wool over everybody’s eyes by saying the cost of living is outstretching people and they won’t be able to afford to live.
“When I was younger, my parents didn’t earn a lot, but they cut their cloth accordingly.
“We live in a world where everybody wants everything and they want it now. What are you prepared to give up? Your iPhone? Sky TV?
“There’s a need to survive and pay your way in society and we have lost a bit of that fundamental value.”
TO get help from Lee Chapel food bank, people have to be referred by one of several organisations.
These include the Citizens Advice Bureau, Jobcentre Plus, Family Mosaic, Swan Housing Foyer, Basildon Resource Centre, Basildon Council’s homeless department, Essex Social Care and Barnardo’s.
Claimants must prove they are in need and are then given a voucher to hand in at the food bank.
It entitles them to enough food for their family for three days.
They must provide identification when they arrive.
Accepted reasons to qualify for food vouchers include benefit delays, benefit changes, debts, delayed wages, homelessness, low income and domestic violence and sickness.