Tuesday, 8 January 2013

FOOD BANKS IN Newcastle and North Tyneside

Food for thought

food bank provision in

Newcastle

Newcastle Council for Voluntary Service

November 2012

Food for thought: food bank provision in Newcastle

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Thanks

This report seeks to map the development and provision of food banks in Newcastle.

Nationally food banks are a fast rising phenomenon. They are an indicator too of the

difficulties families and individuals are facing as a consequence of the recession and

falling incomes.

Newcastle CVS would like to thank all those who took the time to speak to us and

who provided us with the information included in this report.

Copyright: Newcastle Council for Voluntary Service, 2012

Published by Newcastle Council for Voluntary Service, 2012

Newcastle CVS, MEA House, Ellison Place, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 8XS

Registered charity 1125877 and company limited by guarantee 6681475

Tel 0191 232 7445 www.cvsnewcastle.org.uk twitter@newcastlecvs

Email ncvs@cvsnewcastle.org.uk Fax 0191 230 5640

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Introduction

This report gives basic information about food banks in Newcastle upon Tyne and

their services. It goes on to draw attention to some issues and areas for

consideration which have arisen during the research.

The main objective was to map food banks across Newcastle. This involved

documenting food bank contact details, opening times and any other available

information such as the areas they cover.

However, food banks are difficult to locate. There is anecdotal evidence for very

small food bank type provision in very local communities which may even be a

couple of streets. Again there is anecdotal evidence for food bank provision based

around regular religious activities, not just Christian.

There are other issues, for example some agencies hand out vouchers for clients to

hand-in to shops so while they are not food banks as such their effect is very similar.

Context

These are difficult times. The coalition government is pursuing a number of austerity

policies aimed at reducing the amount of government borrowing. The consequences

of these policies include new and increasing restrictions on benefits, reduced

government investment in jobs and a rapidly shrinking public sector.

In addition to these cuts the government is making major changes to the benefit

system and to tax credit entitlements. These changes affect not only those without

work but a large number of people in low paid work.

The corresponding move to more part-time working may partly alleviate the distress

caused by these changes but the problem of low pay and no pay remains.

What do we mean by a ‘food bank’?

A food bank hands out parcels of food to those that need it with no charge to the

recipient. In theory they don’t serve hot food and they don’t offer free gifts. In fact

food banks are often part of a hot food operation and often they will hand out food to

whoever asks for help.

Food banks operate in the following way:

Individuals, businesses and organisations donate food to a food bank.

Food banks collect at supermarkets where shoppers are given a list of items and

asked to buy one or two for local people in need.

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The collected food is sorted and stored. The food bank staff and volunteers sort the

food by date and pack it into parcels ready to be given out.

People visit the food bank and receive the parcels. Some food banks have no or few

restrictions on who can receive their parcels. Others ask for ID and evidence of need.

Sometimes care professionals such as doctors, health visitors, social workers, and

the Citizens Advice Bureau refer people to food banks.

At the food bank people receive their food parcel and often hot food and drink. Staff

and volunteers may be available to talk with them and signpost them to agencies

which can address longer-term problems.

Some agencies, such as the Trussell Trust, operate a voucher system. Here people

take their voucher to a food bank and redeem it for a set amount of food.

Some food banks run a delivery service to take food parcels to clients who cannot

get to the food bank e.g. because they are unwell, or because they live away from

public transport.

Food banks in the UK

Food banks are a fast growing phenomenon in the UK. The Trussell Trust has more

than 200 food banks on its list and reports that it opened two food banks a week in

the last year (to September 2012). It plans to go on opening new food banks to meet

an increasing need.

Food banks provide support for people in need and an increase in number can only

indicate an increase in need. There are a number of reasons for this, from the difficult

economic situation and changes to benefit rules to increased awareness that such

services exist. With no sign of immediate improvement, the food bank or similar

provision is set to become a familiar sight in local communities.

Where are Newcastle’s food banks?

This research has found food banks to be clustered in the east and west of the city

centre. They tend not to be positioned in residential areas or near the outskirts of

Newcastle. This is partly because many are based at churches.

The food banks users travel to them rather than have a door step service. This can

create problems – the food parcels tend to be rather heavy and for obvious reasons

the food bank users do not usually have their own transport.

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Food Bank providers

The research identified the following dedicated food banks in Newcastle.

• Children’s Society, Brunswick Methodist Church

• Missionaries of Charity, Durham Street

• Newcastle East Food Bank, Elim Pentecostal Church, Heaton Road

• Newcastle YMCA

• St Andrew’s Church, Newgate Street

• St Joseph’s Asylum Project, Armstrong Road

• Storehouse, Tyneside Vineyard, City Road

• Walking With, Wallsend1

Providers

Perhaps surprisingly Newcastle’s food banks tend to be supplied not by local

donations but by two national providers – The Trussell Trust and FareShare.

The Trussell Trust provides the largest number of food banks across the UK. It

operates the Newcastle East Food Bank and is looking to open a Newcastle West

Food Bank early in 2013.

FareShare collects food that is near to its sell-by date from retailers, and sells it onto

food banks. FareShare is operated in the North East by The Cyrenians and supplies

food for several food banks in Newcastle. The research found that FareShare

services are praised by the food banks they sell to. Nevertheless at least one

organisation has had to stop using their services because they no longer have the

money to pay for them.

The Cyrenians are looking to expand FareShare. In October 2012 they won £15,000

from Santander bank’s Social Enterprise Development Awards to hire new staff and

help set up a scheme in Tees Valley.

Both the Trussell Trust and FareShare are Christian organisations supplying food

banks that often operate from Christian churches.

Outside of the Trussell Trust and FareShare, food banks operate their own

collections e.g. asking supermarkets if they can approach their customers to buy

something extra for the food bank. The food bank staff approach customers entering

the store and wait behind the checkout to collect the donation once the customer has

paid.

Alongside this there are donations from concerned members of the public. Often

these donations go beyond food to include clothing, baby equipment, and even

furniture. The churches are active on this area too using their network to informally

assist donors and focus donations.

1 Though this provider is in North Tyneside, they are used by Newcastle residents.

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In addition Storehouse is looking to start a food bank network in Newcastle to share

experiences and resources such as a van.

It is reported that local authorities are investing in charity-run food banks to cope with

a demand for help from families in crisis2. However, the research found no evidence

of financial or strategic involvement from the public sector in Newcastle, just referrals

from the Housing Advice Centre (HAC).

Users

Food bank users come from across the city including affluent areas such as

Gosforth. It is not just people on benefits using food banks; the food banks report

increasing numbers of working people on low incomes accessing their services. The

presence of people from affluent areas and of people in-work can be masked by

presenting aggregated statistics.

The food banks report an increase in demand at the start of the summer holidays.

This may be due to children who normally receive free school meals during term time

being at home.

Given the reported scale of the problem (e.g. BBC news, 16 October 2012) the

researcher was surprised not to find even more food banks in Newcastle. However,

further research indicates that food needs in Newcastle are being met in other ways

e.g. through religious organisations as part of their religious activities. The researcher

has found evidence for existing food banks gearing up to meet additional demand

and for new ones about to begin operations.

Other no cost facilities

In addition to food banks there are a number of other facilities in Newcastle providing

food for no cost.

• Blandford Square – Hot drinks and sandwiches, Saturdays

• Peoples Kitchen, The Alison Centre - Hot meals and sandwiches and hot

drinks: 4 sessions at Alison Centre plus 4 street outreach sessions

• Summerhill Square, West Road - Hot meals and sandwiches, Sundays

• The Cyrenians, Ron Eager House – Food and hot drinks: 5 projects in

Newcastle, 1 in Gateshead

• Walter’s Kitchen - Hot dogs, soup and pasta, St Andrew’s Church (Thursday)

and Blandford Square (Sunday)

• West End Refugee Service – Cash hand outs for food

• Edible Elswick, Elswick Community Garden – Free food sessions run by West

End Women and Girls

2 Patrick Butler, The Guardian, 21 August 2012.

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Findings

There has been an increase in the number of families seeking help from food banks

in Newcastle. This is clear from the presence of new and recently opened food banks

across the city and the demand for their services.

The food banks report that they can hand out all that they can bring in. This indicates

that the need for free food in Newcastle is widespread and increasing though for now

at least it is not overwhelming.

Nevertheless, there is evidence that food banks are becoming part of the support

system instead of a supplementary service to assist longer term solutions. That David

Cameron has welcomed the work of food banks and their growing number shows

that rather than relying on state benefits the needy are being increasingly provided

for by the Big Society3. Taken together with current changes to benefits and

discussions with food bank providers it is reasonable to conclude that this is an

intended consequence.

On a more positive note, collaboration, and even co-location, between food banks

and other services would improve the overall package of help for users. And the

creation of a Newcastle Food Bank network can only help provision.

Finally and most importantly, the hard work of food bank volunteers and the

generous donations of the public do have a huge impact on those affected. This is

clear both from reported testimony and the fact that people keep coming back.

Conclusions

This study highlights the issue of poverty in Newcastle demonstrated by the need for

food banks. Though not the subject of this report, it has also brought up the issue of

‘rough sleeping’ and provided anecdotal evidence of this as both endemic and

persistent.

The study has produced evidence of both a need and an increasing need for food

banks in Newcastle. It has also shown the demand for food kitchens and provided

evidence of increased demand for them.

Clearly then getting enough food is a problem for families and individuals in

Newcastle today.

Some of the main issues these conclusions raise are:

 The public sector’s relationship with food banks as they increase in number –

can the government afford not to fund them?

3 Amelia Gentleman, The Guardian, 18 July 2012.

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 The issues of accessibility, such as those concerning faith-based free food

and whether the services of food banks are accessible to all groups e.g. older

people. In other words are food banks accessible to all of the people and to all

of the communities who need their services?

 Raising awareness of poverty not only in Newcastle but throughout the UK -

this will help to reduce stigma around food banks.

 Mutual aid - improving communication between food banks, referral agencies

and other services to create networks and self-help support.

 Practical issues such as storage and distribution – are there sufficient secure

premises available?

These factors will become more important as demand continues to rise.

What’s next?

“Demand has been steadily increasing and the most common reason we have

noticed at our food bank is either debt or benefit changes.” – Food bank coordinator,

Newcastle upon Tyne, 2012.

Food is a basic need and the provision of even a small amount of food has a huge

effect. While they do not deal with the long term underlying issues of hardship and

poverty, food banks help people in a solid practical way at a time when they are both

vulnerable and exposed to other risks.

In general food banks are religious initiatives or community-led projects which meet

an important and necessary need. In so doing they have a positive social impact on

the local community.

Unfortunately the need for food bank services has grown and, without specific

government intervention, this seems set to grow. In fact the government seems intent

on reducing its provision of resources to these very projects.

The view of the food banks themselves is clear: they are responding to increases in

need; their role in local communities is becoming ever more important, and their work

is vital for people in need.

This study has only just begun to scrape the surface. These issues warrant further

exploration.


 

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