Working Islanders ‘now turning to food banks’

Vini Jones, general manger of the Grace Trust, with food donated by supermarkets, for distribution through the Grace Trust food bank Picture: ROB CURRIE. (34131933)

CARERS and hospitality staff are among the soaring number of workers turning to food banks after being ‘pushed to the edge’ by the cost-of-living crisis.

Charities which usually provide help to the unemployed and most vulnerable members of society say they are increasingly being contacted by working Islanders who find that their wage is no longer enough to get them through the month.

And the organisations themselves are facing their own problems – as the cost of buying items for food parcels increases and struggling households make fewer food donations.

One charity – the St Vincent de Paul Society – warned it was burning through reserves and would run out of funds within two years unless prices dropped.

Dominic Egré, the organisation’s operations manager, said that staff had been helping to feed 229 households this summer – a level usually seen during the winter, when budgets are squeezed further by energy costs.

Mr Egré said that the cost of some food – such as ready meals – had risen by up to 50% in the last six weeks alone, and added: ‘At the rate we are spending our surplus reserves built up over the past 20-to-30 years, we could run out in two years if this continues.’

He added that nearly 40% of people asking for help recently were working Islanders, who before the cost-of-living crisis were able to manage but had now been ‘literally pushed to the edge’. Contacting the charity was their ‘last resort’, he said.

The supply of food donations is also shrinking as households face their own financial strain, according to the charity.

Before Covid, a quarter of the food bags they distributed were filled with food at churches across the Island, but this has now dropped to only one in 43 food bags, with the rest bought by the charity using its own cash reserves.

Mr Egré added: ‘I’m a little worried about the winter because of people needing to use more electricity in the colder months so budgets will be stretched even tighter.

‘Normally, we’d ask people to try to donate more but everyone is feeling under pressure now, so maybe people should just think about their neighbours and share any extra food they have already bought.

‘People need to really pull together now. Unless the community starts helping each other it will only get worse.’

He said anyone who wanted to donate food could leave it inside any of the churches. Items such as soup, tinned vegetables, tinned fruit, cereals and women’s sanitary products were currently in short supply.

He added that a mobile food bank on a trailer was also being planned by the charity in the run-up to Christmas to reach more people in rural parishes.

Grace Trust Jersey has also noticed an increase in the number of people asking for help from their food bank, especially working people who were now feeling the squeeze on their income when faced with a big utility bill or unexpected outgoing, such as repair to their car.

General manager Vinni Jones said: ‘We still have the same amount of food coming in at the moment, but we have more people needing help.

‘On the back of Covid and Brexit and now the war in Europe, we’ve seen a steady rise, especially in people referred to us as a one-off because they’ve reached the end of the month and they’re really struggling.

‘These are new people we’ve not seen before and most of them are working.’

Commenting on the professions held by those seeking help, Mr Jones said: ‘We do see quite a few cleaners, labourers, people who are finding themselves at that stage in the month where they are struggling to make ends meet.’

And Salvation Army officer Richard Nunn said: ‘[We do get] people who are in full-time jobs – often in hospitality, cleaners, carers, that kind of stuff.’

He added: ‘Rent is fixed and a lot of bills are fairly fixed, but food is something that there is support available for.’

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