WIRRAL Foodbank's manager has praised the public's "overwhelming" support during what has been a "challenging" year for the charity.

Richard Roberts also warned that foodbanks "are here to stay for the short or medium term, at least" as the cost-of-living crisis continues to bite.

Recent data from the foodbank revealed 7,420 emergency food parcels to people facing hardship across Wirral between April and September – with 2,553 of these going to children. 

The charity has launched its '24 for 24' campaign in a bid to increase support from the public and business owners.

Wirral Globe: Wirral Foodbank Manager Richard Roberts and the charity's office team leader Liz Appleby with '24 for 24' campaign posterWirral Foodbank Manager Richard Roberts and the charity's office team leader Liz Appleby with '24 for 24' campaign poster (Image: Craig Manning / Newsquest)

Reflecting on 2023, Richard Roberts told the Globe: "It’s been a busy year for our charity.

"The last 12 months saw a 54% increase in demand, which is the second highest increase in our history. So that has put the pressure on in terms getting the food in.

“Food donations continued to come in from the very generous people of Wirral, but didn’t quite keep pace with demand, which is not surprising, with the cost-of-living crisis. Foodbanks across the country are experiencing the same problem.

Wirral Globe: Richard Roberts, general manager of Wirral FoodbankRichard Roberts, general manager of Wirral Foodbank (Image: Craig Manning / Newsquest)“So we did have to go into our reserves to help.

"Our reserves are strong at the moment, but we had to spend nearly £100,000 on buying food, which is quite a hit on our reserves, but we planned ahead of that as we did see that could possibly happen, so we set aside some reserves to enable us do that.

“But, obviously, we can’t continue to do that, because once the money is spent it is spent, so we have to look at other ways to increase the volume of donations coming in."

A special campaign has been launched to get increase the support for Foodbanks. Richard explained: “We’re reminding the public of the fact that we are here stlll, also engaging with local churches and we’ve gone out to a lot of the businesses on Wirral and have got a bit of a campaign called ‘24 for 24’ – the aim is to get 24 companies to support us in 2024. 

"We’ve had a few people come back to us already. If there are any companies who would like to support the campaign in any way, we are happy to discuss that with them.

Wirral Globe:

“That support can be anything from collecting food from their employees, sponsored walks or whatever. If they want to talk to us, we are happy to have that discussion.”

“It’s possibly the busiest year we have had.

"A year that was also busy was when Universal Credit was introduced, because that did cause some disparity for people waiting for benefits, but the primary reason is just cost of living.

“About 10 % of people coming to the foodbank are in work, but their income is just not sufficient.

"It’s interesting that every time Government puts the £300 Universal Credit top-up into people’s accounts, we do see demand going down in foodbanks, which shows that the £300 Is being used for the essentials.

“But once that money is being spent, we are seeing demand increasing now."

The public can also donate to a reverse advent calendar that can be downloaded from Wirral Foodbank website. This, according to Richard Roberts, had a great response last year and hopes are that it will be 'equally great' this year.

Richard explained; “A lot of businesses and schools, etc, get behind that. We’re not asking for Christmas items, particularly, just the basic essentials people will need in their food parcel.”

“Our ambition, pre-Covid, with Trussell Trust was to end foodbanks. It was a lofty objective, but if you have something big to aim for you just carry on doing the same thing.

"But what we did was to take a strategic decision in 2018 to work with Citizen’s Advice Wirral and set up a project called Foodbank Plus.

“So we commission Citizens’ Advice Wirral to deliver in-house benefit debt advice. The idea is when anyone comes to a foodbank, we identify why they have come to the foodbank and if there’s an issue there, they can see a Citizens’ Advice advisor there and then.

“The idea is to address the underlying issue. If we can address the underlying issue, we can take out the need for foodbanks. That’s our ambition, because foodbanks are not there as lifestyle choice – it’s there for an emergency, it doesn’t help with poverty, it’s there just to provide help in that emergency.”

Wirral Globe: Inside the foodbankInside the foodbank (Image: Craig Manning / Newsquest)

Asked whether he could see a time when foodbanks are no longer needed on Wirral, Richard replied: “At the moment I can’t, to be quite honest.

"Before we get to that stage, there are general things we need to look at, such as the whole benefits system.

"Are the benefits sufficient to meet day-to-day living costs? I don’t think they are and Trussell are of that view as well.

“For the short or medium term, at least, foodbanks are here to stay.

“We are engaged with our local politicians and local councillors. Trussell Trust are engaging, at a national level, with politicians from all parties to set out the evidence about the fact that the core amount of money people receive in benefit payments is not sufficient to meet the cost-of-living crisis.”

Praising the public's support, he said: “First of all, thank you to everybody on Wirral for supporting us. We’ve been going for over 11 years and the support has not waned at all.

"We’re bowled over by that and it has been a very humbling experience for our 200 volunteers. Many of then have been with us since we started.

“Without our volunteers, we couldn’t do what we do. “Going forward, we need the continued support of Wirral people to donate.

"If everybody donated a tin of food a week, that would make a huge difference.”

To support the foodbank, visit: https://wirral.foodbank.org.uk/