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Foodbank set to hand out 80,000 items... in one year

Jon Langford, manager of St Austell Foodbank

Published by Sarah Yeoman at 12:56pm 21st December 2018. (Updated at 8:01am 22nd December 2018)

By Richard Whitehouse, Local Democracy Reporter

A woman who has been helped by St Austell foodbank this Christmas says that if it wasn’t there she doesn’t know what she would do.

There was a steady stream of people visiting the town’s foodbank yesterday to collect food parcels which have been made up thanks to kind donations from a number of collection points in and around St Austell.

Vouchers for food are provided to people in need by organisations and agencies which come into contact with vulnerable people.

One of those with a voucher yesterday was a woman from Fraddon, who asked not to be identified. She had been referred by a charity which helps victims of domestic abuse.

Unable to afford to buy food, she was at the foodbank where she could get enough to see her through the next few days. It was the second time she has had to come to the foodbank and for her it is a lifeline.

“I don’t know what I would do if there was no foodbank,” she said.

Asked whether it was difficult to have to ask for help she added: “No. I don’t have any choice. I am just grateful that it is here.”

She was accompanied by her daughter who said: “Everyone is struggling. The cost of living is rising all the time, it’s not easy.

“You see all sorts of people having to come here. It’s just great that there are so many generous people out there who have donated food for others.

“It’s very hard at Christmas – there is that Christmas card image of what Christmas should be like with lots of presents, lots of food on the table, a warm house. For some people it isn’t like that, it’s hard.”

Jon Langford is manager of the St Austell Foodbank which is run through the Trussell Trust which operates a national network of foodbanks.

The St Austell Foodbank has now been running for 10 years and Jon explained that demand has increased by 10% to 15% every year.

In St Austell the foodbank expects to have issued 3,200 food parcels by the end of the year – handing out around 26 tons of food, or 80,000 individual items.

But the foodbank also offers additional help, advice and support to people who go there.

Jon explained that this can include filling in applications for Universal Credit, which can sometimes be tricky for those on limited means.

He said: “It takes an hour and a quarter to complete a Universal Credit form and you can’t save it midway. You only get about half an hour if you use a computer at the library.

“The whole Government idea is that everyone has a computer, everyone has a mobile phone and everyone has internet access. They don’t.

“When someone comes in with a Universal Credit claim they tend not to have an email address, they might have a mobile phone but no credit to do anything with it.

“That is why the foodbank is here.”

There is also another problem in St Austell, Jon explained: “We are increasingly seeing people who have been relocated in St Austell as there is housing stock here, but they find themselves here but don’t want to be here, they have no family here, no support network.”

But while there is no typical person who comes to a foodbank, Jon said there were four different groups that he has encountered that he highlights to people.

“There are the ones who have drug or alcohol issues who come in and are desperate for help,” he said. “Then, last Christmas, we had a guy who was a self-employed house clearer who had three children but he hadn’t had any work for five weeks so was in need of help. He had never found himself in need of work before.

“Last year we had a lady pull up to the building here in a bright Audi A3, dressed in a smart suit, and she needed food.

“And then we have people who are terminally ill who need our help.”

Jon explained that it can be difficult for volunteers working at the foodbank to hear the stories from those looking for help.

He said: “It can be hugely emotionally exhausting. It is not rare for our volunteers to go home after a shift here and have a cry.”

But on the flipside he said it was enormously satisfying to help those in need and he was always amazed by the generosity of people in donating food to the foodbank saying that collections in churches, community groups, businesses, council offices and supermarkets all helped to contribute.

He also pointed to the many volunteers who work at the foodbank to help those in need, whether in providing them with food parcels or giving them guidance and advice about anything they require.

He added: “The people of St Austell deserve enormous credit for the help that they provide for people who need it most.”

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