Growing demand at food support groups with expectation of a ‘tough winter’ ahead

Food bank and support demand is growing (istock)

Support groups say a ‘long, tough winter’ is ahead with a surge of demand at social food shops and food banks in Thanet following the end of the £20 per week uplift for those on Universal Credit and a hike in energy bills.

Universal Credit rates had a temporary £20 per week uplift during the covid pandemic. This was brought to an end on October 6 resulting in a reduction to the benefit equivalent to £1,040 a year.

There has already been growing demand at the Our Shop food clubs in Margate and Ramsgate with 100 new members signing up in less than two weeks.

The shops are run by the team from Our Kitchen on the Isle of Thanet, headed up by founder Sharon Goodyer, and offer goods at drastically reduced prices, meal kits and useful information sessions on nutrition.

Sharon Goodyer said: “The grim news is that the food crisis is worsening since the government  phased out the Covid ‘uplift’ in the Universal Credit System.

“We’re seeing a massive increase in the number of people that need our help, the situation is critical, we need to come together and work towards a long-term solution to fix this crisis.

“People don’t want handouts, they want dignity, they want to feel empowered. Our Kitchen offers nutritious food to feed their families at an extremely affordable price. The model is based on people having a little money to pay a very small amount to receive a lot more than they would if they went to a supermarket. The reality is that with Universal Credit slashed, they don’t even have a few pence spare.”

County councillor Barry Lewis, who has been involved with the work of Our Kitchen since its inception in 2017, said: “The effect of the Universal Credit cut has meant a surge in demand for food at Our Shops.

“There was a 20% increase in demand in less than two weeks and existing customers needing the service more.

“As one of the most deprived areas (in the country) this cut in UC doesn’t just affect those directly on the benefit but means spending power across Thanet has dropped. People have less disposable income for non-food items and that is devastating for our local economy.

“The cut hits Thanet harder than some other areas of Kent because of deprivation. Fortunately Our Shops can provide a partial solution.”

John Finnegan Photo Twinkle Troughton

There has also been a flurry of new members signing up for the MiCommunity shop in Margate’s Old Town, which provides affordable food and household goods for their clients as well as advice for benefits, budgeting and more. 

John Finnegan, who co-founded Margate Independent Food Bank and then MiCommunity, said: “We had 28 new members in just one week. 

“We shall have to increase the amount of tinned food we stock, make a plea to the local business community for help and increase the grants we apply for.

“It’s going to be a long, tough winter. We are also still looking for somewhere to do deliveries from as there are people who need extra support and help. We are trying our best to help as many people as possible.”

Mr Finnegan said government funding had been available for food banks last year but has now “dried up.”

Thanet Food Link volunteers (2020)

Thanet Food Link, which runs voucher referral food banks from St Paul’s Church in Cliftonville and at St Peter’s Baptist Church, says the impact of the UC cut has not yet filtered through to them but they are expecting it to happen.

A spokesperson said: “There has been a slight increase in demand but the loss of income from UC has not really filtered through fully yet. Thankfully it coincided with Harvest donations from schools and churches. 

“We expect that (this month) and up to Christmas we may see the full impact. We are not yet at the distribution rates we saw in June and July 2020 though which was 1000 parcels per month.”

Data shows that Thanet has 18,325 UC claimants with more than a third of those in work but on low incomes.

Following the UC rate reduction the government announced a £500m Household Support Fund to be distributed through councils to help those most in need.

Small grants to meet daily needs such as food, clothing, and utilities will be available.

The new fund will run over winter and it is understood Kent County Council will administer it although local DWP officers say they are still waiting for details of how people can access the grants.

For a list of support organisations, including food clubs and food banks, go to www.thanetsupport.co.uk/category/Help-and-Support

Find Thanet Food Link on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/thanetfoodbank

Find Margate Independent Food Bank (MiCommunity) at https://www.facebook.com/margateindependentfoodbank

Find Our Kitchen on the Isle of Thanet at https://www.facebook.com/OurKitchenThanet

Find Newington Big Local (for family cooking and other support) at https://www.facebook.com/NewingtonBigLocal

19 Comments

  1. Maybe McKinley and Gale could do something to help their constituents or are they so very ashamed to show their two faces ! ….

    • Both of them have consistently voted to reduce benefits, or voted to refuse to pay a higher rate for all-including those unable to work due to illness or disability. Seeing as the mortality rate is worse in run down areas of poverty-leading to things like smoking, alcohol abuse & poor diets, which then leads to a higher risk of strokes/heart attacks it seems odd to see him turning out to campaign against the removal of stroke services at the QEQM.

      This must be their wet dream-to see the poor having that extra 20 quid taken away & so many homeless, unemployed & low wages people having to survive on goodwill that the government don’t have to fund.

  2. It is important we know how to access the family support grants. Is this to be a cash grant which leaves us with the ability to spend it where we need and want. Vouchers do not give us the flexibility to get best value.

    We are also all helping each other by recycling toys in our two shops. They are coming in and going out very quickly and these good quality items for free are reducing levels of anxiety and stress.

  3. Perhaps Owen Paterson and his ilk could bung a bit of their >£100,000 sinecures this way?
    Under this horrible government, the rich have got richer and richer – and that money has come from the poor, who have been getting poorer and poorer.

  4. i was approached in ramsgate by some prat asking me if i had any food ? i am not in the habit of carrying food around with me , he spoke with a stupid voice whilst trying unsuccessfully to ponce from me , i noticed when he walked of and spoke to his friends he spoke perfectly normal , some people might fall for these parasites in ramsgate – i dont . and i think shops like aldis and tescos should clear them away from thier doors, these are young fit people poncing for drug money before getting a taxi home with thier days takings – get a job

    • I didn’t think the person who asked me for food was a prat, nor that he had a stupid voice. What does “ponce from me” mean in this context?

    • Had one trying to bum a oouple of quid off me many years back-he asked if I had any money. I had several hundred quid in my pocket at the time.

    • And they dont suffer from the ever increasing problem of ,shop lifting , physical/racist verbal,assaults aimed at staff and the public, criminal damage. Plus much more.

      If only the authorities would use their powers they already have, Oh look there is a pig flying by !

    • Not sure which foodbank you go to, but most are desperate for supplies to help those less fortunate in Thanet.
      I am speechless at Real World’s comment further above in how they see those in need as nothing more than scum poncing of the well off.

  5. We hear all about families struggling, how about pensioners who pay bedroom tax because one of the partners have died and now paying a huge amount each month for power, can we access these places?

  6. firstly marva you were not there when i was approached by this individual – so how can you make your statement without even witnessing it ? ,secondly i understand begging in the streets is illegal ? , but no one is ever prosecuted ? perhaps if we all had a pair of your thanet rose tinted spectacles we would not notice these parasites.

    • I did not assume that the person who spoke to you. “real world”, was the one who spoke to me.

      I have never worn “rose-tinted spectacles”, I just do not have an entirely negative view on life.

  7. Judging by the amount of fireworks let off last night (and not just the 5th), there appears to be plenty of money for the wrong things.

    Truth be told, people can cut their cloth, but just don’t want to. When you’ve blown your cash on pointless gadgets, don’t present pathos on an empty cupboard devoid of food.

  8. Shut down these giveaway places they only serve to attract the low life drug takers,winoes and others who are to bone idle to take work. Perhaps if vouchers were given to those in real need the scum would clear off ( anywhere I don’t care)then Thanet would be a lot better and cleaner

  9. I am sick and tired of hearing how people are going to cope without the Universal Credit, pensioners were offered nothing, we still had to stay in, using more electric, more heating, we have been absolutely forgotten about during this pandemic, so please all the lucky people out there who had the help of £20.00 a week, so moaning and give a thought to the pensioners who had to as usual get on with it…..

  10. well said fred , at least you tell it as it is, and you dont fall for all this do gooder nonsense. these people need to wake up to facts , most of these dossers would steal your false teeth !

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