Our crisis caseworker Richard C made an appearance on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire to discuss summer shortages at Cambridge City Foodbank, and the ways that food bank users can get help in a crisis through the Cambridge Citizens Advice Bureau.
Demand at Cambridge City Foodbank has increased by one third over the course of this year, said Jon Edney, Project Coordinator at Cambridge City Food Bank. He explained that the summer period is difficult for the food bank as the harshness of winter keeps food poverty at the forefront of peoples' minds, whereas in the summer many are preoccupied with holidays. Jon explained that there is a misconception that people visit the food bank week on week, but the reality is that nobody wants to go to the food bank and many feel shame in doing so, but they simply have 'nowhere else to turn'.
Our very own Richard C elaborated on the issue of shame and embarrassment faced by food bank users - those in desperate need will overcome such issues, but many people still struggle. When questioned on the potential for abusing the food bank system, Richard explained that the system is closely monitored in order to avoid this - an individual can receive a maximum of 3 food bank vouchers in a 6 month period, with voucher-issuing organisations monitoring the system electronically.
More important, Richard stressed, is to tackle the problems that lead to food bank use in a holistic manner. This relates both to those in immediate crisis but also people needing more long-term support. The project Richard is a part of at Cambridge Citizens Advice Bureau, funded by the Big Lottery Fund, aims to build resilience and confidence in our clients. In terms of finances, this might mean encouraging budgeting, money management, and greater financial capability. Other issues may stem from benefits being stopped, a lack of digital skills, or struggles with mental health issues. By building resilience in our clients through a variety of ways, our project helps people work towards no longer relying on food banks.