The Chesterfield foodbank Christmas appeal is a success, but the number of customers relying on foodbanks are still on the rise, says Project Manager Ian Birchmore.
The Compass foodbank in Chesterfield is one of three projects run by the Trussell Trust in Chesterfield, which has a network of 428 foodbanks nationally.
Supermarket giants such as Tesco and Morrisons have made major donations to the project locally, with Ian Birchmore estimating that Tesco have donated three tonnes of food to the cause alone.
Local branches have also displayed ‘drop-in’ bins for the project.
Mr Birchmore states that the local scheme costs £20,000 per year, and they have reached 2,160 people this year, which is a slight rise on last year.
It represents a remarkable feat for a project which has no financial backing from any of the local council authorities, yet depends on the generous giving of the community, particularly from churches and community groups.
One significant example is a volunteer who donated £400 to the cause alone this month.
Mr Birchmore believes that the festive season does not make a difference to the amount of customers that come and use the foodbanks.
“People keep saying that it will get busier during Christmas, but people are hungry all year round. Christmas, Easter. That doesn’t mean anything to people when they’re on the streets, or on the dole, or on low pay. The agencies have to pick up the pieces all year round. If anything, it is quieter at Christmas when the agencies close.”
The Trussell Trust estimates that more than half a million three-day emergency food parcels have been given to people in crisis during April-September 2016 alone.
The customers who use the foodbanks range from homeless people to those who are in in-work poverty.
Foodbank vouchers are issued to more than 80 charities and agencies, which are printed on black and red to avoid fraud, and also include a unique number for that customer.
Mr Birchmore hopes that the foodbank epidemic in the country will gain more attention through the release of Ken Loach’s Palme D’Or winning I, Daniel Blake, which contains a particularly upsetting foodbank scene.
The film also includes a scene where one of the protagonists resorts to stealing sanitary towels. At Trussell Trust foodbanks, sanitary items are just as essential to their customers as the food itself, with sanitary towels, soaps and deodorant provided in the parcels.
Mr Birchmore added that with further welfare cuts expected to come, he expects the numbers of customers using their foodbanks to rise into next year.