Stoke-on-Trent foodbanks forced to turn people away

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People in crisis are being turned away from Stoke-on-Trent foodbanks after demand doubled.

Staff at foodbanks in Hanley and Stoke have had to restrict donations to pensioners and those with children under 16.

Churches are giving away 10 tonnes of food a week but only receive five tonnes in donations, which means stocks are dwindling.

Hanley Baptist Church is one of eight centres in Stoke-on-Trent to help people with incomes which falls below 60% of the average.

But now people who have been given a food voucher from their doctors or social workers are making wasted journeys to the foodbank and being turned away.

Pastor Trevor Nicklin, who runs the foodbank at Hanley Baptist Church, said: “People sit and cry because they have no food and nowhere to go.

“They are leaving feeling disappointed and rejected because of the journey they’re on anyway.

“When you lose your job and no one seems to care and you’re desperate enough to go and ask for food, it is a slap in the face when you get turned away.

“We try and accommodate everyone, but if a single man or woman come to the foodbank we are having to say we can’t help, which makes it very difficult.

“It’s not something that we want to do, but that’s what we have to do at the moment just to make things go round.

“It’s a two fold thing, we have a recession so people are struggling.

“Even the working folk are struggling to make ends meet, so it does have a knock on effect on how people give and what they can give.”

When the foodbank first opened late last year, stocks came in thick and fast from local businesses and people who were buying extra at the supermarket and putting it in the food bins.

Pastor Nicklin added: “It seems to me we are going back to the same people with our bowls open saying can you support, can you give more? Which is very difficult because they are giving all they can.”

And he fears reverting to the days of the “soup kitchen” may be the only way forward.

“The church may have to find a different way of doing things. Perhaps feeding people rather than giving out bags of food.”

Since May 2012, when the foodbanks first came into operation, they have fed 4,305 people, including 1,553 children.

Stephen Pratt, vicar of Church of the Saviour foodbank in Stoke, added: “The people who come here are in need and most of them are embarrassed to come here in the first place.

“We need to make children a priority, but we don’t like turning people away. If we had more food we wouldn’t be turning people away.”

Kevin Beech, operational manager at Brighter Futures, said: “One of our biggest worries is that people are going to start turning to street crime for survival and that’s a huge concern.”

People are urged to come forward with non-perishable goods such as sugar, tinned meat, tinned fish and pasta sauce.

For more information about Hanley foodbank, visit their website: http://stokeontrent.foodbank.org.uk/

(Additional reporting by Abigail Fajobi)

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