Energy bills crisis: Falkirk Foodbank's fears for the coming winter
Falkirk Foodbank has always been there in the past to help struggling families and individuals but this winter its vital assistance might not be enough.
When Falkirk Foodbank manager Jim Couper says he has concerns about the upcoming winter, it’s wise to take heed.
He said: “I’m quite worried at the moment. We’ve been seeing our number of referrals go up and if that increases further we will be struggling to get food from the supermarkets and from donations from people, due to delivery issues and the the cost of living increasing.
"Our donations have decreased because there is sometimes no food on the shelves at the supermarket as it is. It’s a worry for us and all food banks how we are going to be able to help those who need it this winter.
"We are certainly struggling to bulk buy anything because the stores just don’t have the food.”
Mr Couper believes high energy costs are going to have an impact and lead to more people needing support from the food bank, part of the Trussell Trust charity’s network helping to tackle food poverty and hunger throughout the UK.
He said: “We class the high energy costs under the umbrella of debt – we are unable to break it down to individual reasons for debt. Referrals have almost doubled sine the school holidays ended – we had 40 in one day recently.
"People on benefits are not the ones who will be hit hardest this winter – they will be on pre-paid meters so it will effect them in the next year.
"They will still be affected by the cost of living, but it will be families who are working and on low incomes who will be hit hardest by the rising energy costs. Those who have access to the internet and normally shop around to get the best deal for their energy providers in the past, they are the ones who are now going to be suffering.
"And that includes a lot of elderly people on low pensions. During the pandemic we saw an increase in elderly people coming to us for help. through issues of mobility and other reasons and this is continuing.
Last month Falkirk’s Forgotten Villages – Ending Fuel Poverty group co-founder Claire Mackie also stated her concerns for the coming weeks, fearing the worst for residents this winter if something is not done to help them.
She said: “The concern of someone dying due to the freezing properties or malnutrition is very real this year.”
And there were some people in the Falkirk area who admitted they had been forced to choose between heating and eating in the past and were scared they would be faced with that stark choice again this winter.
Mr Couper said: “It will become more of a reality as the weather becomes colder. If we get a bad winter it’s going to be a really hard time for a lot of people. Things won’t probably hit hard until maybe Christmas or early next year when people start getting their bills through.
Mr Couper said he also has concerns for Falkirk Foodbank’s annual festive toy donations with the Salvation Army because even toys are in short supply at the moment, with all the delivery issues.