With all restrictions on social gatherings now lifted, does this now mean the pandemic is over, and the Teign Valley Larder is no longer required? Absolutely not. In fact, the larder is needed now more than ever, and here’s why.
News reached us recently that some people in the Teign Valley believe that since life appears to be returning to normal, the Teign Valley Larder should wind up operations. This was accompanied by the assertion that poverty levels are very low in the area. Well, I can begin by saying that all of us working on this project – the board members and all the volunteers who keep the larders stocked – would be happiest if Teign Valley Larder didn’t need to exist.
But staple food and other essential items are still being taken regularly from all our larder locations. I don’t know about you, but I feel very uneasy when I think that there are people in my community who could be missing meals unnecessarily, so while demand continues then we will continue to provide that service.
Yes, everyone can use the larder, but we are confident that those who use it for convenience also donate items or money in return. And we want as many people as possible using the larder so as not to draw attention to those who rely on it.
Tellingly, we see a particular uplift in larder use at the end of the month, which suggests that household finances are struggling to reach payday.
Unfortunately, rather than getting better, all the evidence points to greater pressure being put on family finances, and a greater need for services such as the larder.
According to Devon County Council, more families in Devon are eligible for free school meals for their children than ever before, with numbers soaring during the coronavirus pandemic to the highest levels on record: 16% of all school children across Devon.
Thankfully, the council is providing supermarket vouchers for families who qualify for free school meals so their children don’t go hungry over the school holidays. However, at only £15 per week, per child, the scheme isn’t going to solve the problem on its own.
Indeed, that ‘problem’ will only get worse.
Charities such as IFAN (Independent Food Aid Network) are talking about a ‘September cliff-edge’. This is because the £20 a week uplift in Universal Credit is coming to end, and the vital furlough scheme is being wound up.
Lockdown restrictions may be coming to end, but the aftereffects will still be felt for some time yet. We know that the pressures on household finances are only likely to get worse. And please don’t think that food poverty only happens to other communities. It’s very real here too – just a bit better hidden.
The Teign Valley Larder currently spends nearly £500 a month on keeping the basic items in stock, and we are looking for extra volunteers to help manage the different locations.
If you can donate money (£5 a month?), food, or your time, please get in touch. You can be certain that you will be helping those among us who need it most.