Luton Foodbank use soars as more struggle with cost of living

The foodbank has kicked off its winter campaign this week
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Luton Foodbank is bracing for a difficult winter, with a group of initiatives designed to help support people in need during the growing cost of living crisis.

The foodbank, which celebrates its 10th anniversary next year, has seen a 20% increase in the number of people asking for support since September, as families cope with the increased cost of providing their children with equipment needed for school and higher energy bills.

Project manager Salma Khan said: “People are struggling. It’s the worst we have seen it. People just can’t afford things. People who are working full time are coming to us and it breaks our hearts. We are trying to plan and prepare as much as we can.”

Sarah Owen MP and Amar from the food bank, at the Marsh Farm distribution centre. The MP launched the Here to Help campaign, on November 1.Sarah Owen MP and Amar from the food bank, at the Marsh Farm distribution centre. The MP launched the Here to Help campaign, on November 1.
Sarah Owen MP and Amar from the food bank, at the Marsh Farm distribution centre. The MP launched the Here to Help campaign, on November 1.

The charity has kicked off its winter campaign this week with a Here to Help initiative, with support from Luton Town Football Club and the town’s two MPs among others.

It provides information on how to access food and supplies for people in a financial crisis and also where to get advice and support for further help.

Its Luton Smiles campaign, now in its third year, helps provide 500 meals and toys for Christmas for families who are struggling. Teachers in the town’s schools identify the people needing support and the food, toys and items such as wrapping paper and crackers are given to families on Christmas Eve.

"The campaign has a really nice buzz to it,” says Salma. “People are really giving at this time.”

Hoping to put a smile on children's faces in Luton this ChristmasHoping to put a smile on children's faces in Luton this Christmas
Hoping to put a smile on children's faces in Luton this Christmas

And she praised the town for its support. “Luton is a really giving community,” she said. “Businesses and the community support us.

But she warned: “We are finding people are giving less, they are struggling as well. We have much more food items going out than coming in.”

The charity’s food parcels cost around £20 each for around 15 items, with around 400 parcels a week currently being collected. People can give cash or food and companies including Tesco, The Mall and the Level Trust offer support. There are also food donation boxes in Asda and Sainsbury’s in the town which go straight to the charity.

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Tesco staff collecting toys as part of Luton Smiles.Tesco staff collecting toys as part of Luton Smiles.
Tesco staff collecting toys as part of Luton Smiles.

Luton Foodbank is also launching its reverse advent calendar on November 15, which encourages youngsters to collect an item a day during December which is delivered to the charity after Christmas.

While the majority of the parcels include staples such as pasta, cereals, UTH milk and tinned fruit, local allotments also help out by supplying fresh food from any surplus. Items such as nappies, toiletries, ladies' items and pet food also help.

Around 39% of food parcels currently issued by Luton Foodbank are for children in the town. The charity, which has around 100 volunteers working across its sites around the town, has noticed an increase in people in full time work who have contacted them.

"Several of the biggest employers in the town have approached us”, said Salma.

Many people only rely on the foodbank for a short time and the charity finds those who have been helped, also give back when they are more secure.

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