Residents who are facing extreme financial difficulties and struggling to buy food in Belper are being supported by Derbyshire County Council in the lead up to ‘Blue Monday’.
The council is stepping up its continuing work to support Derbyshire’s food bank network ahead of 20th January – nationally recognised as the date many people rely on support as they struggle with the deadline for settling post-Christmas bills before they have been paid.
It is part of the authority’s wider commitment to tackling poverty, supporting people on low incomes, reducing health inequalities and protecting the country’s most vulnerable residents.
The rising cost of living, static incomes, changes to benefits, underemployment and unemployment have meant increasing numbers of people in the UK have hit a crisis that forces them to go hungry.
According to national figures released by the UK’s biggest food bank network The Trussell Trust, the number of people relying on food banks to survive has tripled over the last year.
And leading medical experts have warned hunger in Britain has now reached the level of a public health emergency.
The county council has approved £113,000 to help the county’s network of 20 food banks cope with increasing demand. It will also be supporting appeals to encourage local people to volunteer and to donate food and arranging for some of its libraries and other council buildings to act as food collection points.
Derbyshire County Council Cabinet Member for Health and Communities Councillor Dave Allen said: “It is a sad state of affairs that although we’re the seventh richest nation in the world, many of our residents are being forced to queue up at food banks to meet their most basic needs.
“This is not about indiscriminately giving away free food – it’s about supporting working people on low incomes and in the most severe financial need who are given an official referral to qualify for an emergency food parcel.
“Not having enough to eat not only has an impact on people’s physical health but on their mental health and long-term life opportunities too, which can also lead to increased pressure on many local authority and health support services.
“Our aim is to make sure help gets through to the most vulnerable residents who need it the most and we will do everything we can to continue our support through this particularly difficult time in January and for as long as people need it.”
Food banks have applied for the council’s funding for a variety of reasons including to buy fridges and food storage boxes, to cover volunteer and vehicle running costs and to pay for training and administration, office supplies, storage costs and rent. Applications are currently being assessed.
Food banks provide a minimum of three days’ emergency food and support to people experiencing crisis. To receive a food parcel, residents need to be referred to a food bank from children’s centres, GPs, schools, the probation service, Derbyshire police or a range of other advice agencies.
Almost 350,000 people in the UK received at least three days emergency food from Trussell
Trust food banks last year - nearly 100,000 more than anticipated and close to three times the number helped in 2012.
There are currently 20 food banks in Derbyshire which are run by charities and non-profit organisations and mainly run by volunteers – and more are starting up all the time.
For local food bank details visit www.advicederbyshire.org