A pensioner who takes an hour-long bus journey every week to visit a food bank for fresh fruit and vegetables says she “wouldn’t miss it for the world”.
Patricia, 90, is forced to brave the cold and travel to the centre of Birmingham from her home in Tividale, West Midlands, just so she can have a free food parcel containing fresh fruit and vegetables.
She also helps out at the food bank, that sits in the shadow of a Christmas market, that is run by local charity BeKind.
Volunteers handed out free food and toiletries to those in need on Monday, with 151 people attended the food drive this week – almost triple the average number from when the group formed in 2018.
Patricia, who does not wish to give her surname, is a regular user of the food bank and says she needs the fresh food due to the high prices fuelled by the cost of living crisis.
She said: “I come every Monday to help out and use the service.
“I love it here and I’m very grateful for it – they’re a smashing crowd.
“Fruit and fresh vegetables are so expensive these days so to come here and get some really helps me out.”
It comes as the cost of living crisis continue to bite, with food prices still high, despite a drop in recent months.
Energy prices are also set to rise on 1 January next year, putting those already struggling under even greater financial pressure as they attempt to stay warm in the colder months.
The Trussell Trust, a charity that provides food banks throughout the country, said they expect to distribute more than 1 million emergency food parcels between December and February.
They reported that 320,000 people have needed to access a food bank for the first time in the past six months.
BeKind founder Yasmin Poulsen admitted she was “scared” buy the increasing levels of demand she was seeing.
She said: “When we started these food drives during the pandemic we were seeing around 40 people a week. Now it’s nearly 150 every week.“
Yahoo News UK has contacted Age UK Birmingham for a comment.
How are the elderly more vulnerable this winter?
Elderly people face several challenges at winter – including dealing with health conditions, both physical and mental – as well the possibility of loneliness.
Age UK said the coming winter will be particularly challenging due to the ongoing cost of living crisis.
The charity says that they are hearing from a “significant number” of older people who are struggling to cope with soaring prices, depleted savings and trying to manage their energy bills.
That is likely to get worse – the energy price cap is set to rise from 1 January, meaning the annual average bill will rise by £94 over the course of a year.
The 5% increase means that people will face an annual average bill of £1,928.
The government’s Energy Bills Support Scheme, which gave households £400 off their bills last winter, is also no longer in place.
Can anyone use a food bank?
The use of a food bank is not restricted and is available for anyone who needs short-term support in sourcing food.
Homeless people as well as those unemployed and employed are all eligible if their pay is insufficient to meet their needs.
The only requirement to use a food bank is that you must be referred by a recognised party – such as schools, social workers, police or GPs.
These parties can issue anyone in need with a voucher that can then be redeemed at a local food bank in exchange for a food parcel.
These parcels are usually required to be collected physically but some will deliver to those who do not have transport or live in rural areas.