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Benefits system blamed for half of visits to Somerset food bank

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: January 15, 2014

The Rev Matthew Street of of St John's Church, Peasedown St John, and Joy Fraserm who set up the Somer Valley food bank

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Delayed welfare payments and changes to the benefits system have been blamed for half of more than 1,300 visits to a Somerset food bank in the past year.

Since it was set up in January last year, Somer Valley food bank has given donated food to 1,309 people, with more than 500 of them under the age of 18.

The outlets in Peasedown St John, Radstock or Midsomer Norton have been stocked with 20 tonnes of food over the last 12 months from supermarket collections at Tesco’s in Midsomer Norton and RADCO in Radstock, and from the generosity of 23 churches and other groups.

Of the 1,309 people who have received help, a quarter did so because they were in debt, 31 per cent because of delays to their benefits and 17 per cent attended a Foodbank distribution centre due to benefit changes.

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The Rev Matthew Street, the leader of St John’s Church in Peasedown and an organiser of the food bank, which is one of the biggest volunteer operations in the region, said: “These figures show how much of a positive impact the foodbank is having. These are more than a thousand real people who would have struggled otherwise.”

Food banks provide three days of emergency food to people who need it the most, as identified by professionals such as health visitors, social workers and the CAB, who give them a voucher which is handed to one of the 100 volunteers involved in the project.

Mr Street added: “One of the ways people are helping us, and ensuring that we can continue to feed people for another eight months, is by giving a home to a food collection bin.

"Any school, church or community organisation is welcome to have one for free if they feel they have the potential to collect large amounts of non-perishable food for us.

"So many more have said they’d like to get involved or help where they can, but time doesn’t often permit them to do so. Thanks to these collection bins that can be placed in a variety of venues, even more people can lend a helping hand.”

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