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The Dragon Says: Ten Years of Guildford Food Banks and No End in Sight

Published on: 28 Dec, 2022
Updated on: 1 Jan, 2023

When the North Guildford Food Bank opened in December 2013, few would have predicted food banks would be needed, even more, nearly a decade later.

Here in mostly affluent Guildford many of us, fortunately, are still comfortable, perhaps very comfortable, despite inflation, the massive hike in energy prices, and all the other increases in weekly bills.

But imagine that after paying your rent, or perhaps your mortgage, you had just £50 a week for all other essential costs like food, travel, clothing, and bills. That is on average, a charity reports, what people referred to food banks have left.

Why is this happening? The answers are complex. In November, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said: “… between 35 per cent and 45 per cent of people coming to get support from food banks report that the reason they are running out of food is to do with changes to the benefits system and sanctions.”

This was partly backed up by the University of Bath whose research found the cause to be: “Typically, a sudden loss of income, caused by benefit penalties or delays, job losses, or equally sudden unanticipated costs, often relating to housing or heating, created a short-term budgetary crisis, which had caused hardship.”

Whatever the reason, it’s a shameful truth that food poverty is increasing drastically. Fortunately, there are empathetic people out there willing to donate their time, money, or purchases to help those in need.

Tesco food donations

Many supermarkets now have a permanent food bank donation bin in-store to allow customers to drop off their donations, so that the supermarkets can partner with organisations to redistribute them to local food banks.

The Trussell Trust supports a nationwide network of 1,400 food banks in the UK, these exist in addition to at least 1,172 independent food banks.

The trust says, within the UK food banks it supports, more emergency food parcels were given out between April to September 2022 than ever before for that period.

Its adds that in that six-month period more than 320,000 people have been forced to turn to their food banks for the first time, with more than 1.3 million food parcels given out.

In the past week The Guildford Dragon NEWS has received two press releases that once again reveal it is generosity of thousands of people who have made donations to support food banks. And thank goodness they have.

A generic press release from Tesco, with stats for the Guildford area included, states: “Tesco customers donated more than 2.4 million meals during the winter food collection at the beginning of December, with 1,643 of those meals coming from shoppers in Guildford.

“Guildford Tesco shoppers have been their most generous ever in support of food banks and local charities, helping to make it a record-breaking year.

“The total of food donated by Tesco shoppers to the Trussell Trust and FareShare during 2022 was equivalent of 12.5 million meals – 7,601 of which came from Guildford.”

Impressive, but it reveals how shocking it is that this is now the way things are in UK, one of the richest countries in the world.

The Tesco press release adds, nationally: “In addition to the donations of food, the pre-Christmas Tesco food collection saw customers donate more than £382,000 to the charities by rounding up their bills at the till, donate £133,000 through a link from Tesco’s online groceries website and give more than £19,000 of Tesco Clubcard vouchers, which Tesco has matched.

The second press release received regarding food banks is from BAE Systems, as part of its community investment programme. It says it has donated more than £160,000 to help food banks across the UK.

In Guildford, “£1,200 has been donated to fund emergency food parcels and cover operational costs so goods can be safely stored, sorted and distributed.”

It adds a quote from, Sarah, who works for BAE Systems in Frimley and who volunteers at the North Guildford Food Bank. She said: “We meet people at the food bank who are in work, between jobs and caring for people.

“Everyone is always so grateful for the food, the generosity and for what we’re able to provide. People can get emotional when they see the food parcel we’ve packed up for them and it’s so rewarding to see the difference we’re able to make.”

Other supermarkets are helping too including: Sainsbury’s; Asda; Morrisons; Waitrose; Marks & Spencer; Aldi; Lidl; Iceland; and the Co-Op.

For more Dragon food bank stories click here.

Over the past 10 years, The Guildford Dragon NEWS has published numerous stories about the North Guildford Food Bank, and also the food bank operated by the Salvation Army in Guildford.

How much longer must food banks be a feature of daily life for so many?

What do you think? Are food banks now inevitable? What can or should be done? Who should do it? Please use the Leave a Reply feature below to have your say.

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Responses to The Dragon Says: Ten Years of Guildford Food Banks and No End in Sight

  1. George Potter Reply

    December 28, 2022 at 2:59 pm

    Food banks and hunger are a political choice. We will continue to have them for just as long as we continue to choose not to make it a priority to stop hunger in one of the wealthiest countries in the world.

    Giving food donations at the collection point might help, but using your vote is the only way to make food banks unnecessary.

    George Potter is a Lib Dem borough and county councillor.

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