Record surge in meals for Keighley poor

Keighley News: Chris Bown, of Keighley Salvation Army, with some of the donated items for the foodbank Chris Bown, of Keighley Salvation Army, with some of the donated items for the foodbank

A charity that provides meals to Keighley’s needy has seen record demand for its services.

Nearly 100 people a week are now using an Intouch Foundation mobile soup kitchen in the town.

The figure is more than double the number that received help when the Wednesday-evening service was launched a year ago.

And another charitable organisation offering a lifeline to the town’s hungry for many years revealed this week its provision had reached unprecedented levels.

Since Christmas, Keighley Salvation Army has distributed almost 2,000 food parcels.

Both charities say changes to welfare benefits have been a major factor behind the soaring demand.

Khurm Mehzar, of the Intouch Foundation, said: “When we started the Keighley soup kitchen in April last year, we were serving between 30 and 40 meals a week.

“That number has steadily increased and has reached a level of between 90 and 100. It is very sad to see so many people who cannot afford food.

“When I speak to service users, many say their difficulties are down to benefits cuts, but a lot have also been hit by rising utility bills. And we see people from many different backgrounds and ethnicities.”

Mr Mehzar said the soup kitchen, which serves a range of food and drinks weekly at Church Green, is supported by a large team of volunteers. And the organisation is looking to launch a foodbank in Bradford to cover the whole district.

Keighley Salvation Army is now distributing about 100 food parcels a week – about 80 at drop-in sessions and the remainder through referrals from agencies.

Chris Bown, development manager at the church’s High Street centre, said: “Demand has grown massively in the past year or so, and we find there is a peak during school holiday periods.

“Benefit changes are making a huge difference and are hitting people hard.

“We are fortunate we get a lot of food donated, which is helping – Sainsbury’s is brilliant, and we’ve had great support from Churches Together in Ilkley.

“But we are always in need of donations. We have spent about £400 a month on food since Christmas.”

Mrs Bown said there are probably many more people in need who don’t come forward for help.

“There are people who are embarrassed at having to seek assistance – some are in tears when they come to us,” she added.

“They feel ashamed at having to ask for help.”

Last week, the Trussell Trust – which runs a network of UK foodbanks – said demand for its services had also spiralled. It gave emergency food to 346,992 people nationwide in 2012-13, compared to 128,697 in 2011-12.

And it said new foodbanks were opening at a rate of three a week.

The latest foodbank to open in Keighley is at the Sue Belcher Centre in Bracken Bank. It is being run by volunteers who live in and around the estate.

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