MORE than £80,000 was spent on food and essentials last year by the district food bank in an effort to combat the rising demand for its services.

New figures released by the Braintree Area Foodbank have revealed 12,500 emergency food parcels were provided across the district in the last year – with 5,000 of these going to children.  

The foodbank has seen a 32 per cent increase in the number of emergency food parcels distributed compared to the previous year.

Charity manager Lee Ranson described the end-of-year figures as “disconcerting”.

He said: “We’ve seen an increase of over 160 per cent in parcels given out within the last five years, 4,813 in the year 18/19 to 12,524 in 23/24.

“The continued effects of the cost of living crisis have caused us to see more and more first-time users to our foodbank.

“More than half of the clients we saw last year had never used the foodbank before.

“We also saw an increase in the number of working families coming to us for support.”

Mr Ranson also explained how the added pressure of the cost of living crisis has led to a “decline in donations”.

“A typical emergency food parcel consists of items such as cereal, tinned fruit and vegetables, canned meat and fish, tea, coffee, biscuits, UHT milk, pasta, rice and much more,” he said.

“Unfortunately, we are having to purchase a great deal of stock as donations struggle to keep up with local demand.

“In the last year we have spent over £80,000 on food and essentials.

“If we hadn’t, we would have run out of food about two-thirds into the year.

“Any donations are so gratefully received and can be dropped off at one of the Foodbank centres, supermarket collection points, or our warehouse.”

The Braintree Area foodbank has been providing emergency food and support since 2012.  

It is part of the Trussell Trust’s network, which reports record levels of need in the last 12 months with more than 3.1 million emergency food parcels between April 2023 and March 2024.

More than 1.1 million of these parcels were provided for children.

The Trussell Trust is calling for urgent reform of the social security system.

Alongside many other organisations, the anti-poverty charity is urging the UK Government to introduce an ‘Essentials Guarantee’ into Universal Credit to ensure everyone has a protected minimum amount of support to afford the essentials.

Mr Ranson said: “This year we are calling on all UK political parties to not only support the Guarantee the Essentials campaign but also the Trussell Trust’s general election manifesto.

“We need change now, so foodbank usage can become a thing of the past.”