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Food Bank Use In Guildford Sees Six-fold Increase Since The Pandemic

Published on: 12 Sep, 2021
Updated on: 18 Sep, 2021

By Charles Kershaw

Food bank use in Guildford saw a six-fold increase at the start of the pandemic, according to the North Guildford Food Bank. And the Trussell Trust, who support a nationwide network of food banks, say it has doubled in the Surrey area.

The North Guildford Food Bank operates out of St Clare’s Church in Park Barn.

Operating out of St Clare’s Church in Park Barn, the North Guildford Food Bank was feeding 20 homes before the pandemic, with the figure soaring to 120 a week at its peak in March 2020.

It still delivers food parcels to those in need through food and cash donations at double the amount they were delivering prior to the pandemic.

Covid restrictions has stopped its team from working in their usual way. St Clare’s Church is its hub and open on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays. It has a food bank at Bushy Hill Community Centre in Merrow, which is open on Thursdays. It’s third centre in Bellfields is currently operating out of St Clare’s Church, Park Barn on Thursdays.

Jo [surname witheld], interim co-ordinator of the North Guildford Food Bank, said: “We’re now running deliveries for about 75% of our clients. We used to operate a drop-in cafe… [clients] would turn up and have a chat. but obviously we haven’t been allowed to have people in and operate the cafe in that way.”

There are 30 food banks in Surrey, and other community food stores in the nearby area. The food bank is hoping to support other local projects in order to top up their supplies. This includes the community fridge run by the Guildford Borough Council at The Hive (formerly the Park Barn Social centre) and a community food store run by St Francis church, Beckenham Road, Westborough.

The Salvation Army in Woodbridge Road, Guildford, also operates a food bank.

Despite the increase in demand, the food bank at Park Barn has had a rise in donations from Guildford residents.

“We don’t have a high financial turnover,” said Jo. “At the start of the pandemic we were really quite overwhelmed by the number of people in Guildford and around who said, ‘well I know I’m okay, but others aren’t, here’s some money, do what you can,’ and that’s allowed us to expand what we’ve been able to give out.”

It is now looking at adding fresh food to its food parcels, as well as contributing to families’ gas and electricity costs using its extra funds.

Jo also said the food bank has seen more people struggling with loneliness, adding: “One thing we really found out during the pandemic was a number of clients who said they don’t have anyone to chat to.

“So just being able to talk to someone in a supportive safe environment was actually quite a support in its own right.”

The Trussell Trust released figures in November indicating more than doubling of food bank usage in the Surrey area. Nationwide, it recorded a record-breaking 2.5 million food parcels distributed between April 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021.

The North Guildford Food Bank will remain open for the foreseeable future, hoping to re-open fully at its three sites in the new year. The food bank has stated that regardless of demand, it will continue to support anyone referred  “in any way we can”.

If you live in the area and would like to be referred to the food bank in order to get support, you can follow the steps on its website.

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Responses to Food Bank Use In Guildford Sees Six-fold Increase Since The Pandemic

  1. Brian Creese Reply

    October 1, 2021 at 11:44 am

    I am sure all those involved with the foodbank will be nervously waiting to see the impact of the cut to Universal Credit, which will hit lower-paid workers hard.

    Everyone I know working in food banks wants to see them disappear, but sadly government seems determined to ensure they remain with us for a long time.

    Brian Creese, is the chair of the Guildford Labour Party

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