This is why fewer food parcels were handed out in West Suffolk over the last year while numbers soared in the rest of the county
One area of Suffolk saw a drop in demand for food parcels over the last year compared to the previous 12 months despite the challenges of the pandemic, latest figures have shown.
Food banks run by the Trussell Trust in West Suffolk handed out 1,504 parcels between last April and March this year, down from 1,940 over the same period during 2019/20.
But food banks in the rest of the county saw the opposite trend, with thousands more handouts in East Suffolk over 2020/21 and demand up 700 per cent from 230 food parcels in 2019/20 to 1,884 in 2020/21 in Mid Suffolk.
And thousands of the food parcels handed out across the county went to children, the statistics show.
Henry Wilson, projects director of Reach Haverhill, which operates Haverhill Foodbank - one of the two distribution centres in West Suffolk, said there were a number of factors that were likely to have caused food parcel numbers to decrease in the area over the last year.
Pop-up food banks over the county border and government interventions are the main two, Mr Wilson said.
"Universal credit went up by £20 per week, which was great news," he added.
"That makes a huge difference and once the food vouchers kicked in, that also made a huge difference."
While the 2020/21 statistics reflect the majority of the pandemic, the data for 2019/20 includes one of the food bank's busiest months on record, at the very start of the coronavirus pandemic in the UK.
"The start of the pandemic when there was panic buying is reflected in the 2019/20 figures as it was in March when our figures really shot up," Mr Wilson added.
Meanwhile, last August, which would usually be a particularly busy month, was not so due to the implementation of school meals vouchers.
Asked why food banks in West Suffolk would experience a drop in food parcels handed out when others in the county saw numbers soar, Mr Wilson said there could be other factors at play.
"It could be a number of things, for example the type of industries are very different here to those in East Suffolk, for example," he said.
Mr Wilson was full of praise for the Government measures brought in to help the most vulnerable over the last year, but added he has concerns for if and when these are stopped.
"The resources that have come through central government to regional government have been excellent," he said.
"But I still really believe we are sitting on a time bomb before it kicks off.
"If universal credit does go down by £20 as the Government is currently planning, I don't know what people are going to do.
"Recipients have been used to having £20 more in their purses, and they are going to find themselves struggling."
The team at Reach Haverhill and the food bank are 'well prepared', though, and have been 'reinventing themselves' to ensure they can help clients - with a focus on helping those who are in debt and establishing the root cause of people's problems.
"We know we are going to get an avalanche - it could be a torrid time for people," Mr Wilson added.
"We are well prepared for it though."
Although he hopes that one day there will be no need for the food bank, Mr Wilson is urging anyone who is worried not to wait and to get in touch with them now.
He said: "We are very positive and optimistic about the future - we are here to help anyone and we are willing to go the extra mile."
Nationally, the Trussell Trust says hunger in the UK isn’t just about food, but the people who do not having enough money for the basics.
Across the UK, it is reporting record levels of need as more than 2.5 million emergency food parcels were handed out during the last 12 months; more than 980,000 of these went to children.
The Trussell Trust is now calling on all levels of government to act and is urging candidates from all parties standing in the upcoming May local elections across England, Scotland, and Wales to commit to working to end the need for food banks and developing a plan to do so, if elected.
Chief executive Emma Revie said: “No one should face the indignity of needing emergency food.
"Yet our network of food banks has given out record numbers of food parcels as more and more people struggle without enough money for the essentials.
"This pandemic has shown the unexpected can hit suddenly, but we know when we push for change, united by our desire for justice and compassion, the government has to listen and act.
“We are asking you, the public, to write to your local election candidates for a commitment to working to end the need for food banks. Together we can take action now to build a hunger free future.”
The charity is asking the public to encourage candidates to make this pledge and stand for change here.