FOODBANKS are having to provide special emergency parcels to Wiganers who have so little money they cannot afford to use their cookers.
Organisations across the borough are giving out “cold boxes” or “kettle boxes” containing food which can either be eaten without cooking or which only requires adding hot water to warm it up rather than staples such as rice and pasta which need boiling.
The Brick, based in Wigan town centre, says it gives out as many as 20 parcels intended for those with no cooking facilities each week, while Atherton and Leigh Foodbank is also distributing 15 such boxes in its worst months.
Foodbank operators also hit out at the plight of the borough’s poorest residents, saying there are rising numbers of Wiganers so cash-strapped they cannot afford to use the gas or electricity at all.
The Brick general manager Trish Green said: “We are finding between 15 and 20 per cent of people coming to us have no gas or electricity. Generally we don’t do any of the kettle boxes but if people say they don’t have certain things we try and tailor parcels to their needs.
“Many of them are on metered utilities and can’t always afford to put money in from week to week. It’s become more and more prevalent as prices go up, and some of our clients are working but still need food parcels.
“I feel desperately sad that it has come to this. There shouldn’t be a need for foodbanks in this country at all, but unfortunately more and more people are turning to them.”
Lowton-based charity Compassion in Action says it is also visited by people with no money to pay the gas and electric bills, but has come up with a different solution.
In addition to providing bags of tinned goods people referred to the foodbank are invited to have a hot meal at Compassion in Action’s community cafe in Leigh, with another similar venue planned for Worsley Hall which is set to open later this year.
Atherton and Leigh Foodbank, which runs three distribution centres, said it hands out two or three kettle or cold boxes to people visiting the distribution centres each week.
Items which only require a small amount of hot water, such as Pot Noodles, and extra rations of cold treats such as biscuits are also being given out to ensure those struggling to heat meals have around three days of supplies after visiting a foodbank.
The situation was slammed by Makerfield MP Yvonne Fovargue, who accused the Government of being unaware of the difficulties facing some people in the borough.
Ms Fovargue said: “It is deeply distressing that anybody should have to attend a food bank in this day and age but to find that some families now have to rely on cold boxes or kettle boxes is truly shocking and a sign of just how hard things are becoming for the poorest in our community.
“The heat or eat dilemma with people having to choose whether to spend on food or heating their home is a key poverty issue this winter.
“The government is failing to understand the scale of the problem, and the fact it’s real. People in Wigan are going hungry.”