Stretford Mall launches foodbank collections as charity reveals a record 11,628 meals have been handed to families in need so far this year.
A foodbank which has handed out a record 11,628 meals so far this year has launched a new collection point at Stretford Mall to meet soaring levels of demand.
Trafford Mayor Cllr Tom Ross joined volunteers from Stretford Foodbank to launch the new collection point and sent out a rallying call to shoppers to get behind the cause and help the needy.
The number of people needing emergency food supplies in the borough is the highest in the foodbank's five-year history and volunteers hope a regular presence at Stretford Mall will help boost stocks.
Since April, the organisation has fed 1,292 people compared to 906 during the same period last year. This equates to a total of 11,628 individual meals.
Of those needing help, 747 were adults and 545 were children – 169 of which were under the age of four.
Launching the new collection point, Cllr Ross said: "Stretford Foodbank needs your help more than ever to cope with the growing demand for its vital service.
"I'm delighted to see Stretford Mall partnering up with Stretford Foodbank. With demand for emergency food supplies increasing year on year, a prominent position in Stretford Mall will help boost the number of donations received and help more needy people within the borough.
"The people of Stretford are renowned for their generosity and this is a fantastic opportunity to support its work."
Stretford Mall manager, Gareth Wilkins, said he was proud to support the foodbank's work helping desperate families.
"Stretford Mall is at the heart of the community and we want to support local families by providing a regular, easily accessible, drop-off point for the public to bring their food donations," he said.
"The area we have designated for the new collection point has the highest footfall in the Mall which will hopefully bring greater awareness to the charity's work and encourage lots of donations, which are desperately needed.
"There is increasing demand for emergency food throughout our community and I hope our loyal customers support these efforts and provide a lifeline for families in need."
The new collection point is next to Love Coffee and The Fragrance Story and will be staffed between 10am and 2pm every Saturday.
The foodbank urgently needs donations of non-perishable food such as soup, meat, fish, tinned goods except baked beans, rice pudding and toiletries. They also need more volunteers to help run the service.
Stretford Foodbank manager Paul Guest says the new facility will be vital to tackling the deepening cash crisis which has seen higher numbers of people falling on hard times.
"The new collection point at Stretford Mall is vital because it will provide us with a regular source of donations. Regularity is really important for us," said the former paramedic, 61, who lives in Urmston.
"The hope is people who regularly shop in the Mall will see us and support us. We need more donations than ever to keep up with demand.
"Any one of us could find ourselves in this position. The people we help come from all walks of life and don't necessarily fit any stereotypes we might have. We've fed as many professionals who have found themselves on hard times - it's not just people living in poverty.
"We're very grateful to Gareth Wilkins, Stretford Mall's manager, for giving us this opportunity. I would also like to thank the public of Stretford for their continuing support."
The foodbank, which is part of the wider foodbank network operated by The Trussell Trust, has set itself the ambition of collecting 100 kilograms of food every Saturday at the Mall to help meet the needs of destitute individuals and families in the borough.
Quoting figures by the End Child Poverty Coalition, the organisation says 49% of children living in the Clifford ward, Old Trafford, and 41% of children in Bucklow St Martins, which includes Partington, Carrington and parts of Sale, are currently living in poverty.
Paul says: "This year, we've noticed more and more low-income families attending our foodbank when previously most people attended through problems with benefit delays," said the dad-of two, who volunteers at the foodbank's distribution centre, Trafford Christian Life Church, where he also worships.
"We've also seen an increase in referrals from Job Centre Plus because of Universal Credit changes which have put us under pressure to provide more food to people attending our foodbanks.
"We've been in existence for five years now and every year it goes up. Our aim is not to have a foodbank but if people need food and their safety net is no longer there then it's down to people in the local community to provide that help.
"We work with local churches and the local community to provide this help."
Food parcels contain a minimum of three days of nutritionally balanced, non-perishable, tinned and dried foods. A typical parcel might include breakfast cereal, soup, pasta, rice, pasta sauce, baked beans, tinned meat, tinned vegetables, instant mash, UHT milk, tea, coffee, sugar, tinned dessert and biscuits.