‘The biggest reason for Food Bank visits is problems with benefits’
‘In February 2017 over 420 people needed emergency food in Swansea; 119 of these were children which equals almost a third of all who visited.’ says Kristina Williams, manager of the Swansea Food Bank services. This is the total number of children across all five operational Food Banks in Swansea who have required emergency food to help them and their parents get by.
Kristina goes on to say that ‘the main reason for people needing food bank vouchers is issues with the benefit system’, and adds the problem is ‘often delays in people receiving benefits, or there’s an over-payment and the person or family has to pay it back – leaving them in a financial crises.’ Complications with the current UK welfare system are leaving the families and individuals of Swansea without food and panicking about how to live day to day.
James*, who was at the Food Bank when I dropped in, told me about his experience with the charity. ‘I needed to use The Food Bank because I recently lost my job as a Youth Support Worker, and I’m waiting to start a new position in 8 weeks but the salary is less, and I was struggling to feed my wife and young daughter and we didn’t realize how much everything adds up when you have half the income you used too.’
James’ story isn’t an uncommon one as Kristina adds that another common reason why people have been needing Food Bank vouchers in recent few years is ‘due to salary drops and levels of low income jobs rising.’
James continues to say how he felt ‘embarrassed and ashamed’ about the situation and was ‘too uncomfortable’ to tell even his close friends in case they thought any less of him. But that it all changed after visiting The Food Bank as everyone was ‘so lovely, friendly and welcoming’, and, ‘gave great advice, I never felt judged and wanted to tell people about the service which helped me so much; so I plucked up the courage and did, and everyone was very accepting about it’.
The 428 Food Banks across the UK, run by The Trussell Trust, are there to help people who are having money crises by giving them three days’ worth of emergency food, as almost anyone can end up counting the pennies.
*Names have been changed for anonymity