Saul Cooke-Black, local democracy reporter
The number of people using Newport Foodbank rocketed by around 35 per cent “because of covid” last year.
Figures show that thousands of people in Newport and Gwent have turned to foodbanks in 2020, and Manager of Newport Foodbank, Jon Slocombe, who described the situation as “unprecedented”, said numbers have increased since March due to the economic fallout from coronavirus.
In 2020, Newport Foodbank provided food for 5,180 people, up from 3,840 in 2019 which equates to a rise of about 35 per cent. Last month alone, 556 people used the city foodbank up to December 23.
Eastern Valley Foodbank in Pontypool has provided food for 5,433 people since March when the first lockdown started, while Blaenau Gwent Foodbank supported 1,443 families, made up of 2,070 adults and 1,159 children, since March.
Mr Slocombe said: “We are in a situation where there are a lot of people in crisis at the moment. You can see that from the year-on-year increase. I think it’s come partly because of the pandemic.
“We are in this unprecedented situation and people are falling into crisis which is sad and inevitable.”
Mr Slocombe said the increase in usage comes as The Trussell Trust charity attempts to end the need for foodbanks.
As well as feeding people in crisis, the city foodbank works with Newport City Council, Citizens Advice Bureau, housing associations and others to provide support.
Due to coronavirus, the foodbank is operating on an appointment basis where food is collected at an arranged time.
Mr Slocombe said the foodbank has also seen an increase in the number of people making donations during the pandemic.
“The public have been phenomenal in their giving and in their generosity,” he said.
Blaenau Gwent Foodbank volunteers are delivering food across the borough to those who have been referred.
Foodbanks in the borough have been closed for collections, but donations can still be made at centres in Ebbw Vale, Brynmawr and Beaufort.
According to Wayne Evans, project manager, there has been an increase in people using the foodbank who have lost their jobs.
He said: “We are seeing people come forward who were in good jobs. They are now finding themselves in a very difficult situation.
“We are getting a lot of people who are embarrassed about coming but we are trying to reassure them that we can all find ourselves in this situation. We are all only one month away from this situation.”
Eastern Valley Foodbank is also providing food deliveries due to coronavirus.
Helen Leek, of the Pontypool centre, said the number of people provided with food increased by about 70 last year.
“I think the biggest impact is still to come,” Ms Leek said.
“A lot of the people we were originally supporting were people who were not working anyway.
“What we have started to see now is more job losses and businesses not recovering, so I think we will see an increase.”