Devizes Food Bank swamped by demand

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: Food bank organisers Alan Beamish, Michael Ash, Jasper Selwyn, and food bank chairman Peter Brearley with a cheque for £875.92p from the parish autumn bazaar Food bank organisers Alan Beamish, Michael Ash, Jasper Selwyn, and food bank chairman Peter Brearley with a cheque for £875.92p from the parish autumn bazaar

Food bank organisers in Devizes are appealing for more support after being swamped with demand from needy families.

After seeing a rise in demand in 2012 they fear benefit cuts and the continuing recession will see even more people coming to them for help in 2013.

Jasper Selwyn, a trustee of Devizes Food Bank, said: “In the past year the Food Bank has provided over 400 emergency food boxes to people in genuine need, feeding about 1,200 people.

“We collected about 11 tonnes of food, but gave out 12 tonnes, and demand is always increasing.”

The charity, part of the Trussell Fund, has dug into its reserves over the last 12 months, giving out more supplies than it has taken in in donations.

The single biggest reason for people to be referred to the Food Bank is benefit delay (29 per cent) followed by low income (19 per cent).

Other reasons for referral include delayed wages, domestic violence, sickness, unemployment, debt, benefit changes, refused crisis loans, homelessness and no free school meals during school holidays.

But food bank co-ordinator Alan Beamish warned: “Where the biggest demands on us came from benefit delays it is now benefit cuts. These are going to affect everyone but mostly disadvantaged people on low incomes.”

Demand for the Food Bank’s help has been steadily growing over the past few years. The Food Bank’s coffers were swelled last week when the Devizes Catholic Parish handed over cheques for nearly £2,000, having chosen the Food Bank as its charity of the year.

Some £875 of it was raised by the church’s annual bazaar at the Corn Exchange in September and the other £1,100 by a sponsored run by fundraising co-ordinator Michael Ash, running in his first half marathon in Swindon in October.

Mr Ash said: “Local people have been so generous in supporting our fundraising efforts this year “Given the very difficult times we live in, we had no hesitation in choosing the Devizes Food Bank as our main beneficiary.

“They do a fantastic job. However, despite our efforts, they still remain low on supplies. I hope local people continue to be as generous in 2013 as they have been in 2012.”

The food bank has had donations from across the town. Mr Selwyn said: “Many churches have food collections and we have permanent collection boxes in Sainsbury’s and Morrisons.

“We are at the coffee morning at St Andrew’s Church every Thursday, and our administrator, Alan Beamish, will be happy to answer questions and receive cash donations.”

It has to find £7,500 a year to cover volunteers’ expenses, insurance cover and other essentials.

The Rotary Club of Devizes has also been helping needy families. Secretary Alison Batchelor said: “I would like to offer a sincere thank you to the people of Devizes who contributed to our annual appeal for Christmas hampers.

“Thanks to your generosity, we were able to provide 19 hampers to people in need around Devizes.”

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