Food bank use shows stark increases in Nottingham as one reports handing out 500 parcels a week

Nottingham food bank use shows ‘stark increase’ as the largest independent food bank reports handing out 1,200 food parcels a month
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Thousands of people have been driven into poverty and hunger over the past 12 months, according to new data from the food bank and crisis support charity The Trussell Trust.

Figures released today show the extent of the number of people now relying on parcels from food banks in the UK - and a sharp and alarming rise in those numbers in the previous year alone. In the 12 months to March 31st this year, the Trussell Trust network, which oversees the collection and distribution of parcels to local food banks, recorded an extra 760,000 people using food banks compared with the same period the previous year.

In that period the network was responsible for giving out 3 million parcels, an increase of 37% in just one year. At its busiest period - December - the charity was giving out one food parcel every eight seconds. The new Trussell Trust data also reveals a stark increase in demand for food banks in Nottinghamshire and the East Midlands region.

In Nottingham, the total number of parcels given out in the year 2022/23 reached a new high of 19,849. That was an increase of 3,871 parcels in the previous 12 months - a 24% jump in just one year.

The figures also show that foodbank use in Nottingham by the number of parcels has nearly doubled in five years. In the year to the end of March 2018, 10,747 parcels were distributed in Nottingham. The 19,849 parcels given out in 2022/23 represent an increase of just under 85%.

This was echoed in Mansfield, where food bank usage has more than doubled in five years and grew by 35% in the last year alone.

Regionally an even more bleak long-term story is being told. The East Midlands region has seen an incredible 157% increase in food bank usage over the past five years and a 34% increase in the past year alone. There were 105,000 more parcels given out last year than in 2017/18.

Behind all of these statistics, there are human beings and stories of people struggling more and more just to get by. One person who knows this reality all too well is Sajid Mohammed, director of the largest independent food bank in Nottingham.

Distributing some 1,200 food parcels per month - and as many as 500 per week - Himmah, based in Radford, is on the frontline of the battle to provide food to the people who need it the most. And, Mohammed says, this is becoming an increasingly tough and challenging task as more people find themselves driven into poverty.

“We’ve seen inflation and huge rises in utility bills and mortgages,” he says. “It’s meant there is less and less disposable income in people’s pockets. Thus when they have a crisis, such as if the car breaks down, or the washing machine breaks down, they find themselves getting into more credit card debt and various other debts.

“With the changes in the economy, the cost-of-living crisis, and inflation, there are lots of new people coming who historically had never imagined themselves using a food bank.

“They’re being pushed over a financial cliff edge and are a crisis away from using a food bank.”

Reflecting the dire statistics in the Trussell Trust report, demand for food parcels from Himmah is increasing at an alarming rate.

In the last full financial year Himmah gave out 8,800 individual food parcels. In the first six months of this year, it had provided almost the same number again - 8,126 parcels and counting. By the end of the year, Mohammed expects Himmah to have given out over 100 tonnes of food in Nottinghamshire alone.

And the pressure to meet such high demand is taking a huge toll on the charity itself. Himmah relies entirely on donations and voluntary hours worked and is bearing increasingly tough costs of its own for many of the same reasons its users are struggling.

So far this year the charity has spent an incredible £120,000 on purchasing food for distribution to its users.

This is done from a variety of sources, including charitable food redistributors such as FareShare. The rest comes from donations in supermarket trollies, collections from workplaces and faith-based organisations, and members of the public coming forward.

But with costs rising above the board, charities like Himmah are being squeezed.

Mohammed says: “We want to serve as many people as we can but we’re spending more time raising donations than we ever have.

“At times demand has been too high and we’ve struggled. There are times when we’ve done over 500 food parcels in a week. We’re being affected by the cost of living crisis as well. We have to purchase the majority of our food and that’s tripled or quadrupled in price.”

Himmah is one of several food banks in Nottinghamshire, all struggling to meet this increasing

demand. There are also various initiatives to support people in food poverty in other ways, such as the Salaam Shalom Kitchen, which offers free hot meals in Hyson Green, and reduced-cost social supermarket Foodprint, in Sneinton.

Nottingham City Council-run website AskLion offers a wide range of information and contact details for numerous services around the city, from food banks to free childcare facilities to mental health support. Ask Lion - Nottingham City Directory