Bracknell food bank helps poor to eat in Berkshire

Children from Ascot Heath Children from Ascot Heath Primary School donated food to the food bank

Rising food costs and increased unemployment have increased demand for a service in Bracknell which provides food parcels for people in crisis.

The Foodbank in Bracknell was launched in September 2009.

It is run by Geoff and Pat Hallett as part of Kerith Community Church.

When it launched in 2009 it helped a total of 71 people, 14 of whom were children, whereas in November 2010 it helped 175 people, including 58 children.

According to a recent Save the Children report, 16,000 children are living in severe poverty in Berkshire.

The charity says people on low incomes are forced to cut down on food.

Families living in severe poverty often have to choose between heating their homes and buying food, according to Save the Children.

Rachel Bhatia, a spokesperson from the charity, said: "Food costs have gone up. People used to go to low-cost supermarkets and look at the reduced items, now they are going to the market at the end of the day for the lowest possible price."

Deprivation pockets

Helena, a mother of four children, who lives near Reading, has managed to escape the crippling £30,000 debt she was left with after her marriage broke down.

But she told BBC Radio Berkshire that after she separated from her partner she sometimes had to go without food to pay bills.

She said: "If the Government says this is what you have to live on, what do you pay? Even just the basic commodities of food or heating, which one?

  • "Severe poverty" is defined as a two-parent family with two children living on under £12,500 a year
  • One-parent families with one child in severe poverty live on under £7,000 a year
  • Housing costs are not included in living costs for purposes of the survey

"When it's a young family, the husband will eat, the children will eat, but the wife won't. I've had to forgo food, just to make sure my kids have eaten and the bills were paid.

"It's really difficult because when they're younger they don't understand, you can try and budget as much as you can. They see other children having things and they think you're being mean."

Pat Hallett who co-runs the Foodbank said Helena's story was typical of the people they were trying to help.

"We see this on a daily basis," she said. "That story is very accurate. Parents have mortgages to pay, rent to pay, gas and electric to pay, and all of a sudden they have no food in their cupboards. "

Geoff Hallett said he was "surprised" by the number of people living in poverty in Berkshire.

He said: "There's always hidden poverty. There's a great deal of pride in the British people as well, where they hide the fact they're so needy.

"These pockets of deprivation have always existed. There are now 90 food banks in the UK."

The Foodbank works with 37 agencies, ranging from local authorities to charities, using a voucher system to help those believed to be most in need.

People must be referred to the charity to be given food, which is donated by local charities, schools and churches.

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