A STALYBRIDGE foodbank has revealed the scale of its use is larger than many would have thought – and it is only likely to get bigger.
And it says the introduction of the Universal Credit benefit has had a “huge effect”.
Tameside East Foodbank provides packages to people who find themselves unable to make ends meet for a variety of reasons.
The Correspondent can reveal that 4,200 people were helped last year, a rise from 1,500 when it opened in 2012, and an extra 280 have been added to the system this year.
Some stories are more heartbreaking than others, with one woman walking all the way from Hyde to the foodbank’s base at Holy Trinity Church, Stalybridge, with six children just to pick up a food parcel and then walk back again.
And centre manager Trisha Jarman does not expect a drop in demand any time soon.
“Universal Credit has had a huge effect, that has been the biggest change,” she said.
“And soon with people going to the internet-based Universal Live, demand may increase as not everyone has access to the internet.
“I didn’t think we would become as big as we are and many may ask, ‘Should we be doing this in the 21st century?’ but times are hard.
“People fall on hard times through debts or losing their job and end up living in a bed and breakfast or something like that.
“One person who was referred to us was a doctor who had been on sick leave for six months and as a result had gone down to half pay.
“And even some who can get packs may not have things like kitchen utensils.
“Some people find it very embarrassing that they are even using a foodbank, but in cases like children that have been released from care, it’s a case of them not being able to manage their money properly.
“We need more regular donors. It’s not promoted or advertised, but we’re not a charity.”
Tameside East Foodbank, which has bases in Stalybridge, Dukinfield and Hyde, operates from a warehouse at Stanley Square which was gifted to them by housing group New Charter and estimates it gave out two-and-a-half tonnes of food in September.
Already 120 volunteers work with the group, which is the largest in Tameside, and it has an agreement with Tesco which sees the supermarket top up any donations left there by 20 per cent in weight.
Some 120 agencies can refer people to them with vouchers, including social services, housing associations, mental health groups and the Probation Service, an increase from just nine when it started.
Food parcels differ from one for a single person, which includes two cans of soup, 40 tea bags or a small jar of coffee and one tin of rice pudding or custard, to one for a family of four, which also includes a sponge pudding, a packet of instant mash and one-and-a-half kilograms of rice, pasta or noodles.
There are also ‘cold packs’ and ‘kettle packs’, which include things like noodles and cup soups.
Each one is thought to provide enough nutrition to last three days and includes about £28 worth of food. Nappies and sanitary products are also handed out.
There are six foodbanks in the Tameside area, including four under the umbrella of the Trussell Trust, of which Tameside East is one.
As well as providing food, the group is about providing emotional support as many people who are referred to them feel it is their fault.
Trisha added: “It’s the biggest in Tameside and we cover Ashton, Stalybridge, Dukinfield, Hyde and Audenshaw, but a lot of the agencies that refer people are based in Ashton.
“No-one goes out of here feeling worse than when they come in.
“There’s never any judgement and I don’t push it down people’s throats.”
• If anyone wants to donate to the Tameside East Foodbank, a shopping list has been drawn up of things that can be handed over, including tinned meat, fish, vegetables, fruit and pudding, cooking sauces, coffee, powdered or UHT milk, cereals, long life fruit juice, jam and instant mashed potato.
They can be given at the warehouse at Stanley Square or at Tesco supermarket.
You can also donate online: