An increase of 35 per cent in foodbank use in Horsham has been branded ‘shocking’ by a charity.
A report released by the Trussell Trust has revealed Horsham District Foodbank provided 1882 three day emergency food parcels to people from April 2018 to March 2019.
Emma Elnaugh, foodbank manager at Horsham Matters, said: “We’re seeing a huge increase in the use of our food bank.
“A lot of people are becoming more reliant on this regularly and that’s a changing tide for us.
“It’s very shocking. We’re seeing people who have never had to use a food bank before and find themselves in that place.
“People find the humiliation of asking for food horrendous.
People find the humiliation of asking for food horrendous.Emma Elnaugh, Horsham Matters foodbank manager
“We’re seeing a definite shift in need and food poverty. It’s a crisis.”
Increase in use down to Universal Credit
Emma attributed the increase in demand to benefits, particularly Universal Credit which was rolled out to Horsham in June last year.
She added: “We do see a lot of very upset people who did not dream of being in that situation.
“The increase [in use] is a month on month increase at the moment.
“[February] was our busiest month and some of that was directly attributed to universal credit.”
Foodbank use has a mental health impact
But resorting to a food bank doesn’t just have a financial impact.
Emma told how the ‘humiliation’ of asking for help can have a knock on affect on mental health.
She said: “It really does affect people’s wellbeing.
“It’s very shocking. [Going to a foodbank is] really, really distressing.
“It’s not uncommon for people to be very distressed when they come in to request support.
“They want to avoid the foodbank that’s in the immediate locations where they live.
“[I hope] they realise they’re one of many and we reassure them of that.”
Emma added that once people have made it through the door they know that they will be supported.
She said: “There’s lots of stigma attached to it. We fed 218 people that month [February]. 139 adults and 79 children.”
Helping all those in need
The food bank helps all those in need and stretches across all demographics.
Emma told how the site aids adults, adults in temporary accommodation, families and the homeless.
She added: “[It’s] a real mixture of people.
“There’s no real specifics about who we’re seeing that increase from.
“The split is about 50 per cent adults and 50 per cent families.
“We’re fortunate that we can be very flexible with our food bank because we’re donated a considerable amount of food.
“People coming in and asking for food already do have that need, it’s not something people manipulate.”
Foodbank gave away 19,000kg of food in less than a year
From April 2018 to February this year the foodbank gave away 19,000kg of food.
Emma thanked the Tesco collection as well as donations from various churches.
She said: “We would not be able to provide the service without all of that support.”
Horsham Matters is a social enterprise set up by Horsham Churches Together (HCT).
Its aim is to deliver projects that provide practical support to those who are in need in the local area.
The charity said: “We are committed to helping those who are unable for whatever reason to help themselves.
“We aim first to meet people’s practical needs and then working with partner organisations to help them with the wider issues.”
Where can I access the foodbank and how can I help?
But Emma called for continued support to allow the charity to expand its work.
Horsham Matters is in need of ‘crucial’ funds to pay for fuel and its van and hopes to extend the foodbanks to villages in future.
The charity holds four foodbanks each week.
They are on Tuesdays, 10am to 12pm in St Andrews, Roffey, Wednesdays 4pm to 6pm at the Christian Life Centre, Horsham, Thursdays, 10am to 12pm at Trinity Methodist Church, Storrington and on Fridays, 1pm to 3pm in the Quaker Meeting House, Horsham.
The foodbank provides food in an emergency or crisis.
To access the foodbank, the client needs a voucher, which are distributed by numerous agencies.
The agency has to ascertain the reason why the voucher is needed, and also that the client is taking steps to remedy the problem.
A spokesman for the charity added: “We work with approximately 60 referral agencies across the district.
“Donations are received from the general public, from school collections, from church and supermarket collections and occasionally from local businesses.”
To donate to Horsham Matters visit horshamdistrict.foodbank.org.uk
‘Upset, ashamed and embarrassed’: This is what it’s like using a foodbank
Jane’s (not her real name) husband had recently lost his job, while she was receiving Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
Jane reported the change of circumstances to Horsham District Council to ensure their Housing Benefit (HB) was updated.
Initially she was advised that she did not need to make a new claim, and that the existing claim would be revised to reflect the new situation.
But, due to a delay in processing, Jane was later contacted by the Housing Benefit department and told that as it was now after June 6 (the date Universal Credit (UC) Full Service came into effect in Horsham), she would now need to claim UC. This would replace all their existing benefits, but would not be paid for at least five weeks.
At the same time, Jane’s Personal Independence Payment (PIP) had been stopped, leaving her, and her husband and child, to survive on Child Benefit and her son’s Disability Living Allowance.
Left without any money, Jane had to turn to the foodbank to feed her family.
Jane sought benefit advice from her Housing Association to assist with challenging both the HB and PIP decisions, and both cases are still ongoing.
The UC is now in payment, but is reduced as a result of an initial advanced payment.
Jane said she is also finding it challenging to adapt to the new monthly payment (in contrast to the weekly and four weekly payments of previous benefits).
As a result, Jane has needed to use the foodbank on several more occasions.
Jane added that the reception she received from the foodbanks could not have been more welcoming.
The volunteers immediately put her at ease, offered tea and biscuits and entertained her child.
Jane said she felt upset, ashamed and embarrassed about needing to use the foodbank, but that when she went along she was made to feel comfortable and not in any way judged.
What has the council said?
A Horsham District Council spokesman said: “Horsham District Council is unable to comment in any detail regarding this situation, due to the anonymity surrounding this customer.
“As a District Council we do administer benefits on behalf of the Government and do so in as sensitive a way as possible.
“If this particular individual would like to contact us, we will of course try all we can within our means to help them.
“We would urge this customer to make contact with us immediately so we can provide appropriate support and guidance.”