We’ll struggle to feed Torbay this Christmas

By David Gledhill, Marketing & Communications Lead

It is going to be a long hard Winter for many.

And I am not just talking about the weather – but the colder it gets, the more of a struggle it will be as people are forced to choose between heating their homes and putting food on the table.

A series of events outside everyone’s control will mean that thousands of people in Torbay this Winter will be the toughest they have ever faced with bills rising and income falling.

We are already seeing the effects of the removal of the £20 top-up of Universal Credit which was introduced during the lockdowns, in calls to the Torbay Community Helpline.

We are also hearing stories of people having been made redundant as their furlough came to an end, leaving them with mounting debts and a growing sense of desperation, for some for the first time in their lives.

We have already seen petrol and diesel prices leap at the pumps adding pounds every week to the cost of the school run, but we have yet to see the effects of soaring home heating bills as the nights grow longer and the temperatures outside drop below 10 degrees centigrade.

It is an unfortunate and yet enduring myth that people who use foodbanks are down and outs who have got themselves into a mess through their own ill-judged actions or people who prioritise their spending on things other than food.

But NO ONE wants to put themselves in the position where they have to use a food bank and as so many have discovered over the last 18 months, most of us are just a few wage packets away from joining them.

Think about it. One day you are comfortable, the money is coming in, the mortgage or rent is getting paid and you have just bought yourself that big screen TV to hang on the wall. And then boom, the job ends, the money dries up and within no time there is a steady stream of red bills dropping through the letterbox.

It happens more than you think, and it has happened many, many times to many people during the Coronavirus crisis. One minute they are flying high, the next they are on their uppers, unable to make ends meet.

The dedicated volunteers across ten foodbanks, yes ten, food banks across the Bay see it every time they open their doors – the embarrassment of having to ask for a handout, merely to put food on the table when they have never had to ask before.

But they needn’t be embarrassed; food bank volunteers are careful not to judge and treat everyone with the respect they deserve because they know only too well that there but for the grace of, it could be them.

The food banks are bracing themselves for unprecedented demand this Winter, not least in the build-up to Christmas when parents will be forced to make agonising decisions about whether to buy the children presents or make sure there is food on the table.

It could be one of your neighbours, but you might never know, it is not the sort of thing that comes up in the chat over the garden fence, which is why the food banks need the help of all of us in the coming months.

The Torbay Food Alliance was set up soon after lockdown one began in April 2020 and brought together food banks from across the Bay so that the operations could become more targeted and bulk food buying would be cheaper.

It has been an overwhelming success providing somewhere in the region of 600,000 meals currently at the rate of 7000 a week. That is feeding a lot of hungry mouths and as good as the economies of scale are, that still comes at a cost of around 83 pence per meal.

So please, when you are out shopping in your local supermarket do put something into the food bins by the cashier desks – preferable tinned or dried food, with long sell dates.

Alternatively, you can donate money to the Alliance via their Crowdfunder.

Remember, any number of things can combine to change your fortunes (no one ever said life is easy) and one day it could be you.

If you need help with food or finance, contact the Torbay Community Helpline on 01803 446022, or use the online form – bit.ly/torbayhelpline.