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Food Bank volunteers help more than 200 families every month

Neil Reid, Blackpool Food Bank.

Neil Reid, Blackpool Food Bank.

In Blackpool the average wage is £120-a-week lower than the national average – £86 lower than other towns in the North West.

Approximately a third of the resort’s 143,000 inhabitants are living below the government’s official poverty line. More than 8,000 of those are children.

It means individuals like Neil Reid are not just important, they are vital.

He is part of a 25-strong volunteer team which runs Blackpool Food Bank, helping to feed families who might otherwise starve.

More than 200 families a month are currently seeking food donations – that’s four times the amount compared to the same time last year.

“Here’s one example,” says Neil. “We give to a young mum who had separated, was on her own with her daughter, working and paying her bills, paying her own way, and the only way she could continue to work was to have her daughter in nursery three days a week.

“Yet the only way she could pay the nursery bill was for her personally not to eat two days a week. That is pretty shocking.

“Now let’s get one thing straight– these stories happen all over Britain, they are not peculiar to Blackpool. But we do have particular issues here and there are a couple of wards in our town that are considered to be pretty low down the scale in terms of poverty.”

The Blackpool Food Bank is one of a number of organisations trying to help ensure the local people who most need help, get it.

They work with the council alongside a number of other agencies to try, as Neil puts it, “make a bigger impact then we can do as individual organisations”.

Neil acknowledges that there is a Lost Generation, young people in the town who have fewer prospects than their parents or grandparents.

“There are a number of children around today who are part of a generation that has not been mentored in the same way as your mum and dad and your gran and
 grandpa,” he said.

“The break up of traditional family life has caused a situation where we give food to people and they don’t know what to do with a bag of rice.

“It’s not like it was 30 years ago where mum was passing on all the skills of running a family and a house, budgeting, cooking a meal.

“Lots of kids growing up today have never seen a meal getting cooked and they don’t know how to do very basic things, that actually if they are going to make a go of life they need to understand.

“The bottom line is in society we have a situation where things have changed and there is a definite need to help, to intervene, to educate, and to support – because if you grow up in an environment where mum and dad have been on benefits and you’ve never ever seen dad go out to work because his dad was on benefits then for you that is the norm.

“How do you stop it?

“Well, it’s not my area of expertise but it has to be about education. We’ve got to somehow intervene with these young people and help them understand there are certain things you need to do for life to work.”

There are around half a dozen places in Blackpool where people can walk in and get food parcels. There are 10 soup kitchen providing meals for the homeless.

The number of individuals and families needing food is increasing sharply, and there are no signs the situation is about to stabilise any time soon.

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