Food bank use remains well above what it was before the pandemic, with the number of parcels being handed out across Bristol more than doubling since 2019 - and the situation is about to ‘get much worse’.
Figures released by The Trussell Trust today (Wednesday, April 27) show that 26,691 parcels were distributed by the charity to Bristol residents in 2021/22 - a 59% spike since 2019/20, when 16,735 parcels were given out.
The cost of living crisis, Universal Credit uplift and jobs losses during the pandemic mean that people are relying on the city’s food banks more than ever, with Bristol listed as the Trust’s fifth busiest area in the South West.
And Anna Murray, manager of the Trussell Trust Foodbank for North West Bristol in Avonmouth, told BristolWorld that although things were difficult now, staff are aware that ‘the worst is still to come’.
She said: “At the moment, people are at least able to turn their heating off. But autumn isn’t that far away, and anxiety levels are high.”
Ms Murray said that around a tenth of clients suffer from some form of sickness, and staff were particularly concerned for those relying on the city’s four Trussell Trust food banks who have disabilities or terminal illnesses.
She said: “Many of those clients cannot function without heating, and if it comes down to it will choose heating over other essentials.
“People have had to become much more resourceful. One lady told us she only boils her kettle once a day and puts it in a flask.
“Our advice workers talk to clients to help them maximise their income, but at the moment there just isn’t room for movement.
“Some clients can’t even afford homes in the first place and are living in carvans or sofa surfing.”
But Ms Murray added that one positive that could be taken from the situation was that the people of Bristol continue to generous with their donations to the food banks.
“Bristol is absolutely a city where people look out for each other,” she said. “And what’s really lovely is that the people we’ve helped often return to give something back to others who are struggling.
“We’ve had former clients who’ve found work and turned up with a car packed with donations. One man appeared at the door with a wad of cash he said he’d been saving for months.
“There is still a lot of shame surrounding food banks, and people often tell us they use them as an absolute last resort.
“But we aim to be as welcoming as possible. We have around 120 volunteers who understand and really want to help.”
Ms Murray said that if anyone would like to donate, they can do so at collection points in their local supermarket.
At the moment there are shortages of dried rice and toiletries such as shampoo and shower gel.
Ms Murray also asked BristolWorld to include details for the Help for Hardship helpline, which refers people who to their nearest food bank and is available by calling 0808 2082138.