Wales

Season of good will at food banks across Wales

Image caption Food bank volunteers with Helen Bull, partnership and fundraising manager for Cardiff Food Bank (far left)

Christmas is a time of extravagance and over-indulgence for many.

But while most of us will be tucking into a turkey dinner with all the trimmings, there will be those who do not even know where their next meal is coming from.

Last December, The Trussell Trust provided more than 11,400 three-day emergency food supplies to people in crisis in Wales alone.

And this year is no exception, with the charity expecting even higher figures during its busiest month.

It was a wet and windy Thursday morning but men, women and children had braved the weather to attend one of Cardiff's food banks at The City Temple, Cowbridge Road East.

Food had been sorted into bags and friendly volunteers were busy handing out donations to clients.

One of them was Julie, a mother of four children all aged under seven, who was on low income.

For the last three days, the family had had no heating or hot water as their boiler had broken and she was struggling to make ends meet.

"I would prefer to feed my kids before myself. I was in that situation just before Christmas last year and the food bank helped us out a lot," the 39-year-old explained.

"This donation now will help in the run up to Christmas. Normally I have to rely on family a lot.

"It's hard being on such a low income because my little ones want things but I only have one present each for them. It's upsetting because you're trying your best."

Volunteer Daniel, 33, became involved with the charity after experiencing life on the other side.

He was stealing to fund a gambling problem and was violent in his relationship, but with the support of the food bank has got his life back on track.

"It's nice to help people and I know what they're going through because I went through it too," he said.

"I was in a situation where I had no food and was in a bad place.

"The food bank gave me a chance. Without it, I would most likely be stealing still."

Image caption Volunteer Daniel has helped out at the food bank for more than a year

A 60-year-old man, who did not want to be named, said he had turned to the food bank as he was "desperate".

"Christmas is tough. At this time of year all my bills seem to come out at once and I get letters threatening to evict me if I don't pay," he said.

"Help from the food bank means a lot. I will worry less.

"Christmas will be better now I have food."

The Trussell Trust timeline in Wales

Source: The Trussell Trust

The first Welsh food bank opened in Ebbw Vale in 2008. There are now currently 35 food banks and 105 distribution centres across Wales.

While 45% of those using food banks have problems with their benefits, the reality is that a significant and increasing number of people who are on low income salaries also need support.

A lot of clients also attend distribution centres to access agencies who can give advice on debt, benefits and housing.

Oxfam Cymru said that out of a survey of 477 from Wales, 72% of people believed that having a need for food banks showed there was something "fundamentally wrong" with society.

Carys Thomas, head of Oxfam Cymru, added: "It surely can't be right that in 21st Century Britain so many are struggling to need to look for help because they can't put food on the table."

Food banks are providing a lifeline for many in Wales during the festive period, not only offering food but launching Christmas toy donation projects.

At Vale Food Bank in Barry, for instance, their Christmas Big Wrap project was aiming to provide toys and gifts to 300 disadvantaged children and young people who might otherwise receive nothing, or very little, for Christmas.

As Tony Graham, food bank network manager for Wales, put it: "Food banks are an incredibly sad thing to have in society but at the same time they are an expression of people's care and compassion for others who are vulnerable.

"People are more aware they are spending more money so feel concerned for people who have less.

"One of the most wonderful times of the year that we see that expression of care and compassion is at Christmas."

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