Manchester food banks are feeling the strain of increased demand as families struggle to feed their children over the Christmas holidays.
The closure of schools for the holidays on Monday means that struggling families will not have access to the free school meals they normally rely upon, so need food bank aid.
Elaine Leveridge, Project Manager at Compassion Food Bank at Church of God of Prophesy in Moss Side, spoke to MM about the problems many families face over the Christmas period.
Elaine said: “It’s going to be a nightmare because they are going to have nothing to eat.
“If they get school dinners and there’s nothing at home it’s going to be a problem.
“The demands are getting greater, and because the demands are getting greater we are going to struggle for food over the winter period.”
Thirty per cent of pupils at state-funded nursery, secondary and primary schools in Manchester Borough are known to be eligible for and claiming free school meals.
This is the highest in Greater Manchester, which has an overall average of 18.2%, the third highest of counties in the North West.
Families that claim free school meals and do not usually use food banks are forced to rely upon donated food to make up for what is not supplied by schools during the period.
Elaine, who co-founded the project with friend Michelle Welch, said: “It’s the Christmas season.
“I think that parents want to buy something for their children and its either food or a present or heating and you can’t have all three because there’s no money to do all three.”
Other food banks in the Manchester area have also reported a sharp increase in demand as families struggle to make ends meet during the festive holidays.
Michelle Hodges, Manager at Chorlton and Didsbury food bank, said: “Over Christmas we always have increased demand.
“We had four families from one school yesterday. That was a school in the south Manchester area.”
As well as providing food for people in need, Chorlton and Didsbury food bank runs the Eat Well Spend Less project.
These free courses teach people how to cook meals for themselves rather than relying on expensive pre-prepared food.
However, there is worry at some of Manchester’s food banks over the sustainability of this level of support over the winter.
Compassion Food Bank voiced concern over the fact that some people could struggle as many food banks themselves close for their own holidays.
In order to combat this potential problem, Compassion is supplying people with hampers of food to last people the whole of the Christmas period.
Elaine said: “A lot of families have said that if it wasn’t for the food bank they don’t know how they would manage, because they are struggling really badly.”
For information on how to donate to Compassion Food Bank, click here.
More information on Chorlton and Didsbury food bank, along with other Trussell Trust food banks, is available at trusselltrust.org.