Ottery food bank sees demand double


tins - Credit: Archant

Organisers behind a food bank in Ottery have been forced to ‘move up a gear’ to cope with a huge increase in demand.

The Ottery St Mary food bank had traditionally operated on a delivery basis, taking three days worth of emergency supplies to people in ‘food crisis’.

But organisers have said this is ‘no longer practical’ after demand doubled in the past six months, forcing the group to move their stocks out of a volunteer’s spare room in to a storage facility at the United Reformist Church.

A spokesperson for the food bank said: “When we started in July last year we looked at running a service where clients could come directly to us but decided against it because demand was quite intermittent.

“Now use has increased to a level where it is not practical to deliver directly to each client.”

“We saw a big jump in use in April after changes to the benefits system came in, so we are now planning regular open sessions for folk to collect food.”

Since opening, the food bank’s 12 volunteers have served more than 2700 meals to needy people, with the majority of clients living in the town itself.

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The spokesperson said that each new client had a different reason for being in need, with the most common being a sudden change of circumstances, waiting for benefit to start or waiting for the first payday in a new job.

“People in Ottery have been very generous with their donations,” they added. “It’s one of those things that is very easy for locals to do but it can make a real difference to people’s lives.”

The food bank was set up with the help of Honiton Community Church - a group which has helped start similar projects in East Devon.

Church elder Norman Amey said that food banks across the region were reporting similar increases in use.

“The problem is absolutely getting worse,” he said. “The benefits changes have had a lot to do with it, and the issue is certainly not limited to Ottery.”

Donations of non-perishable food products can be made at any of the town’s churches and Roberts Hardware.