Wigan borough food bank struggles to keep up with rising demand as cost-of-living crisis bites
A food bank supporting families in the borough is under pressure and struggling to keep up with a noticeable rise in demand for vital everyday items.
The Trussell Trust’s food bank for Atherton and Leigh, based at Kingsleigh Methodist Church in Leigh, has revealed there has been a stark increase in the number of people needing its help.
The Trussell Trust has revealed that it distributed 46 per cent more emergency food parcels in August and September than it did in 2021. It provided more than 4,000 food parcels across Wigan in 2021-22.
Wigan Council has offered vouchers to qualifying vulnerable families to be used at food pantries, funded by Government grants. But there are concerns about what will happen in future.
David Hughes, trustee at Atherton and Leigh food bank, said: “After the council pantry vouchers scheme came to an end the first time, we were inundated with people having to use our food bank.
"Since then the pantry vouchers started up again, but we have not seen a significant drop in people needing to use our service.
"We are still running over 40 per cent more than last year. When the pantry vouchers come to an end again this time, we suspect there will be an increase again.
“Unfortunately, the council won’t have money to keep providing these pantry vouchers forever as they come from Government funding.”
The food bank has noticed new clients now having to rely on its service.
Mr Hughes said: “When we talk to the clients, especially since we’ve had a sudden influx of families that are new to the service, they have been telling us that it’s due to a sudden increase on the cost of fuel – heating and electricity. It’s leaving them with no money left over to buy food. The phrase being used now is ‘either heat or eat’.
"We urge people, if they are finding themselves in difficulties, go to the council and seek help – there’s no shame in it. We are trying to not just provide food and other items, but also a network of support for people as we have a number of organisations working alongside us.
“We are always short of tinned meats and fish. We have plenty of beans but we just want to provide people with a little more variety. We sometimes work in conjunction with Storehouse Project and do an exchange for items that our clients may need.”
A collection for the food bank is being held at Tesco in Leigh from December 1 to 3, which will involve around 100 volunteers.
Mr Hughes added: “If people are able to, if they could just buy one tin and donate that to us on these collection days, then that would really help us out a lot.”
The charity is also running a reverse advent calendar in the run-up to Christmas, which involves a box and page of numbers, as with a normal calendar, but rather than revealing a picture or a treat, people give an item from their cupboard or buy something to donate every day. It is taken to the food bank after Christmas so it can be used to help feed people in crisis.
To find out more, visit athertonleigh.foodbank.org.uk