When Angela Doggett opens the doors to the community center, she’s used to seeing a handful of familiar faces come by to pick up groceries that will help them through the week.
But lately they are no longer a few regular visitors. A long line of people who come to the center in search of help awaits her.
“I would say that in the last two months we have seen the queue increase from about four or five people to 25 or 30,” the manager of the Bechange project in Aylesham, Kent, in the south-east of the United Kingdom, tells the BBC.
“They are people with young families, older people and people who are working… I’m seeing new people that I hadn’t seen the week before,” he says.
And it is that the inflation in the United Kingdom is increasing at its fastest rate in 30 years . In the last 12 months to February, prices rose by an average of 6.2% and the situation – mainly driven by the global increase in energy prices – is expected to worsen and even reach double digits.
This is a problem that also affects the rest of Europe, such as Spain , where inflation in March rose by 9.8% compared to last year, its highest level in 37 years.
“We’re getting people from farther away, from out of town, who are taking things for their families and neighbors because they’re worried about them, too,” Doggett continues.
You’re not alone: Other nonprofits and community groups that help people at risk of hunger are seeing increased demand for their services.
The findings are part of a new survey by FareShare, a charity network that distributes surplus food to thousands of organizations across the UK.
Of the 1,200 groups that participated in the survey, 90% said that their work is being affected by the cost of living crisis .
FareShare says it doesn’t have enough food to meet the growing need for help.
Now he is launching a campaign to get more donations from the food industry to try to keep up with the demand.
“A year to 18 months ago we were shipping 1,500 food trays a week, now it’s 3,000,” says Emma White, shift manager at FareShare’s distribution center in Kent.
“I think this number could double again in the coming months.”
FareShare has 30 regional warehouses across the country. Teams of volunteers wearing high-visibility vests collect and package large amounts of unsold or unwanted food from supermarkets and food manufacturers.
Much of it is fresh, nutritious produce that would otherwise go to waste.
FareShare estimates that it helps feed more than a million people in the UK every week.
“It can be a homeless shelter, a school breakfast club or a food bank. We are serving all areas of the UK in different communities,” Emma, who is also a volunteer, explains to the BBC.
More than 75% of the organizations that responded to the FareShare survey said they had seen an increase in demand.
Among the reasons people access their services, 65% said it was due to rising food costs , while 52% said rising gas and electricity bills were also a factor.
At Project Bechange, volunteers collect food once a week and place it neatly on tables in the community room for anyone who arrives.
Every Friday, Alison Trevellion, 55, joins the queue waiting for the doors to open.
“I’m going to make a soup with delicious vegetables that will last me a few days. I also pick fresh fruit… you shouldn’t be worried or embarrassed about coming here,” he says. “This is for everyone.”
Alison has been coming to Bechange for a couple of months now and says it’s a great help because money is so tight right now .
“Maybe I’m one of the lucky ones. I work part time, I get Universal Credit (the government’s financial aid), but I still worry when I think about how much gas and electricity are going up and I just don’t think this government is in touch with reality,” he says.
“I would love for them to have my salary for a month and for me to have theirs. Because they would never come here.”
Alison says she manages, but she can’t stop thinking about what lies ahead.
“I go to bed at night, I start thinking about things. And I start rubbing my hair. And I have a bald spot there, because I’m so worried about everything.”
Workers and volunteers at this small center are also noticing the growing anxiety .
“It’s really shocking because it’s about all kinds of people. There’s really no end to this. We know things are going to get worse , they know things are going to get worse,” notes Doggett.
- BBC News World