Food Bank Britain: Each week End Hunger Fast is shining a spotlight on individual food banks, talking to some of the selfless volunteers who are working hard to compete with the explosion in demand.

Wokingham in Berkshire has been described as one of the wealthiest and healthiest places to live in Britain. However in just three months, this affluent town in the Thames Valley has fed 500 people at its newly opened Foodbank with demand rising by 25% since the turn of the year.

It is a fact that has taken many in the town by surprise, including the Churches Together organisers and the town’s MP John Redwood who visited the centre recently.

“We were surprised by demand.  This a high property cost area and people have no spare money if things go wrong.  Many people who have come to us have lost jobs or have been ill. What worries us most is what would happen to them if we were not here”. explained David Atkinson and Brian Doherty who are who are Trustee and co-managers of the Food Bank which opened in September last year.

The Food bank is run by Churches Together and is one of the 300 ~Trussell Trust- supported food banks around the country. It operates mainly through a voucher system – those in need will receive a voucher from community organisations, churches and charities around the town.   This will be turned into a food parcel with nutritious ingredients sufficient to feed a family for approximately three days.  Thus far the community has generously supported the Foodbank and volunteers will collect food donations from a number of places, including the local Tesco or at the Foodbank in the town centre.  The vouchers are intended to cover short term crises caused by a temporary shortage of money and recipients are directed to agencies or charities, such as the CAB, which can help them sort out their longer- term financial difficulties.

The Foodbank team believe that about 60 per cent of recipients are on benefits of some sort and the remainder are on low incomes, particularly zero hours contracts or very low pay.  Many of those were managing until some sort of crisis, either a delay or change in their benefits, loss of job or some sort of personal crisis such as divorce or illness.  It is clear that beneath the façade of wealth, many people in Wokingham have only just enough money to meet their basic bills, such as mortgage or rent and have no savings to fall back on when things go wrong.

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