Cost of living crisis: Sheffield food bank says donations after pandemic have dipped while need grows

The team at Burngreave Foodbank say it’s a privilege to help people – but they agree they would be happiest if they weren’t needed at all.

Thursday, 28th April 2022, 1:53 pm

It must put a dampener on how the organisation is approaching its 10-year anniversary in May. They plan to mark it with an open day at their home at at Rock Christian Centre on Spital Hill.

“We’re not celebrating,” said assistant Trisha Watts with a good-humoured shrug. “There’s nothing to celebrate about a food bank.”

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Trisha Watts, an assistant at Burngreave Food Bank, says donations have fallen since the pandemic while the need for them continues to grow.

The Burngreave branch launched in 2012 when food banks were a shocking new concept to the UK.

Fast forward 10 years, and the latest figures show how food banks are now an unavoidable truth.

The Trussell Trust – a nationwide network of food banks, which includes Burngreave – revealed this week how Sheffield’s reliance on the service has increased by 295 per cent since the pandemic.

Over 104,349 parcels have been provided to people facing financial hardship across the city in the space of two years, as more and more people say they are struggling to afford basic essentials.

Referrals to the food bank, managed by the Trussell Trust, can draw three food parcels made up of enough food for three days for everyone in the household.

In the stock rooms, Trisha showed The Star how they had one office dedicated to pasta and a corner of canned crushed tomatoes, amid every other household staple imaginable.

“We were full to the ceiling during the pandemic,” said Trisha. “People were so generous during 2020.

“The donations have gone down since then, but the need is still there.”

Stock rooms like these were reportedly stacked to the ceiling with donations during the pandemic.

The day The Star visited Burngreave Food Bank was a markedly quiet Wednesday, with less than 10 people accessing the service. Others came for a free bread roll and a cup of tea – you don’t need a referral for that.

“Sometimes the queue is out the door, sometimes it’s very quiet,” said Trisha.

“On the busiest days we give out 30 parcels, made with three days of food for a household.”

One man told The Star he was an asylum seeker who visited the food bank for the first time six months ago.

Trisha Watts, an assistant at Burngreave Food Bank, says donations have fallen since the pandemic while the need for them continues to grow.

“My life has been up and down these past few months but I’m sure my position is getting better,” he said.

“The staff have and volunteers have been so supportive, to the point I can say what I’m short of in the house and they make it up.

“I can come in here really down and I do always find smiling faces and a cup of tea. It always helped.

“It’s always hard to come here for the first time. Of course it’s – maybe this isn’t the right word – but it’s embarrassing, to find yourself in a situation where you need to be given food and help.

“What you will find is an environment where you will feel safe and welcome.”

Around this time, Trisha came back from speaking to a visitor. She had been given her food parcels – two Bags-for-Life worth – and was crying at a table. They talked it out over a cup of tea.

“Some people just need to off load,” said Trisha. “Some of them haven’t talked to anyone in ages. It’s important to chat to them and look after the whole being.

“It’s a privilege but also it’s sad to see people come to us. In a way, we will be happy when we’re no longer needed.”

Bunrgreave Food Bank operates out of the Rock Christian Centre on Spital Hill every Wednesday and Friday between 1pm and 3pm. For more information, email [email protected] or call 07542 888671.