Published: 08:37, 15 May 2019
| Updated: 08:37, 15 May 2019
More than 50 tonnes of produce was donated to the Towns’ food banks last year, with 5,835 emergency parcels handed out to those in need.
That was a 5% rise on the previous year’s figure of 5,559, although far greater increases were seen elsewhere in the country, with continued issues with Universal Credit and hikes in rent combining to drive record numbers towards their doors.
At Medway’s eight Trussell Trust-run centres, thousands of families received support in the 12 months to April, with 2,411 of the three-day packages going to children.
Those who get help can do so a maximum of six times in a year.
Medway Foodbank, which the Messenger supported with its Christmas appeal, is now backing calls to ensure the benefits system is able to protect people from poverty.
It shares the concerns of other food banks in the Trussell Trust’s network about Universal Credit.
It is not the only benefit payment people referred to the food bank have experienced problems with, but the issues faced by local people moving onto the new system are significant.
The food bank has needed to give emergency food and support to people who are waiting more than five weeks for a first payment.
Universal Credit sees six benefits combined in an effort to streamline the process for claimants, but lengthy delays have led to increased poverty and evictions.
Project manager of Medway Foodbank, Lorraine Schulze, said: “No one in Medway should need a food bank’s help and we want to see an end to local people needing emergency food at all.
“It doesn’t have to be this way - our benefits system is supposed to protect us all from being swept into poverty. Universal Credit should be part of the solution but currently the five-week wait is leaving many without enough money to cover the basics. This isn’t right.
“Until we reach a future where food banks are no longer needed, we’ll continue to provide vital support when it matters most. We’re dedicated to ensuring that people in our community without enough money for food are able to access emergency support.
“Our vital work in the community has only been possible in the last year because of the incredible generosity shown by local people in donating food, time and funds.”