Coronavirus: 'Terrified' furloughed workers turn to food banks

By Jordan Davies
BBC News

Food bank volunteers
Image caption,
Volunteers Rachal Collins and Sue Wright say they have helped local hospitality workers who are out of work

Desperate parents are turning to foodbanks, "genuinely terrified" about feeding their children during the pandemic, volunteers have said.

Since social-distancing measures were brought in food banks across Wales have seen a rise in demand.

In Caldicot, Monmouthshire, volunteers said people's "cupboards were bare".

Volunteer Jo Watkins said demand had quadrupled since the outbreak, with some people turning up to get parcels saying they "have no food at all."

"We're getting a lot of people who are genuinely terrified. This week we had people who had literally run the cupboards bare and they are contacting us to say they have no food at all," the local councillor said.

Image caption,
Councillor Jo Watkins said people were really frightened about feeding their families

While demand has increased, volunteer numbers have fallen from 20 to four, due to people having to self-isolate during the pandemic.

Volunteer Rachal Collins said some people in the hospitality business had no idea when they would be back at work.

"We've had two clients who work in the local pub, and they've been furloughed," she said.

"Pubs are apparently going to be one of the last things to open, so they're probably going to be like that for the best part of this year.

"If you're on a low income, to take a drop of twenty percent, that's quite hard to be furloughed".

The Trussel Trust reported a record number of referrals to its food banks in Wales last year, well before the coronavirus crisis.

More than 113,000 parcels containing three-day emergency food supplies were given to people in crisis in between April 2018 and March 2019, according to the charity.

People are normally referred to foodbanks by GPs or council officials, but volunteers say they are seeing people turn up at the door asking for help.

In Newport, Raven House Food Bank Trust has seen a tenfold increase in demand for food.

Their volunteers include Wales rugby defence coach, and former international Byron Hayward.

Manger Noreen Hinton believes demand will remain long after the virus has been brought under control.

"I can't see the volume we're doing changing, even when people go back to work," she said.

"The need has been identified for the greater demand and I don't see that changing for many months to come, people are saying please don't close.

"We're getting more and more people saying we need food," she said.