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Peterborough food bank 'busiest' since before pandemic

“This is probably the busiest we have been since pre-pandemic"- says Alan Gage from Peterborough Food bank as they cope with rising demand despite ‘noticeable’ reduction in donations. 
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Alan Gage, Warehouse manager at Peterborough food bank

The Peterborough Food bank run by the Trussell Trust operates four centres across the city, providing food, sanitary products and a place for a hot drink and chat.

Over the past months, the charity has seen a rise in demand for their services with more people coming through the door for help. 

Cost of living crisis, job cuts, impacts of the pandemic and the general state of economy have been seen as contributing factors for the concerns. 

But despite the increase in numbers seeking help, the food bank says they have recently seen a drop in donations – especially at collection points across city supermarkets. 

They anticipate the demand will further go up. But the food bank says they are here to help no matter what. 

Speaking to Peterborough Matters, warehouse manager Alan Gage said: “In the last few months, we have seen an increase in the number of vouchers being issues – mainly because of the energy crisis. 

“People can’t afford to pay heating bills so they can’t cook. We are seeing more people requesting items that don’t require cooking or using the oven such as tinned items. We have also seen an increase with the Ukrainians, Syrians, Afghan refugees as well. 

“We are probably processing up to 200 vouchers a week- our centres are becoming extremely busy. 'We have a centre open on Thursdays between 7pm and 9pm in Hampton which has helped people who are working to access help after they finish work. We have seen an increase there. 

“From the centre’s point of view – I can say we have been busiest in comparison to pre-pandemic numbers. We are supporting more families as well. We anticipate it will go up as more people start to receive their increased energy bills and other prices and generally the state of the economy– it definitely will affect us. 

“We have been seeing people who were originally furloughed but have not got a job now.  

“We are seeing police officers, nurses and other professionals coming in for help as well. 

“It could be that their family’s disposable income has reduced or relationship breakdowns where both partners contributed to the income - a number of factors which has meant they seek help from us. 

“But we are seeing a decrease in donations coming through. 

“One of the reasons could be that people have joined in to help Ukrainians. But the price of food going up is a factor too. Where people used to buy an extra packet of pasta or cereal or biscuits for the purpose of donations, they are no longer able to do it. 

“So, we have seen a noticeable drop in donations. We are not struggling with the stock, we are doing okay but we are seeing a decline in the general donations at the boxes in supermarkets. 

“We are going through 2,000kg of food a week as our numbers are going up. So, we are always after donations across our four centres and volunteers as well. 

“We have had a fantastic response from Burton Street Mosque – they have collected over 1500kg of food over Eid. During the Jubilee celebrations, people collected food for us and have donated a lot of items.” 

As Covid rules have ended, the food bank has resumed signposting services to people coming through their door – again they have seen an increase of people accessing this support. 

Alan added: “We are now hoping to offer more signposting to people now that the Covid rules are relaxed. People can come in have a cup of coffee and have a chat. Pre-pandemic we used to get about 15 people coming into the centres every two hours, but now we have about 30 odd people coming in. But because we are open for only two hours, it’s getting challenging. 

“We work closely with Citizens Advice on a daily basis and are trying to open back to offer support. 

“We anticipate we will see more people coming through the doors, particularly families coming in as summer holidays kick in.” 

The food bank is always welcoming volunteers and currently has opportunities at the warehouse to help sort out the food. 

More information on items required and how to volunteer can be found here