MILLIONS of people have been feeling the pinch as the cost-of-living soars – but a Southampton charity is here to help.

More and more people have turned to food banks as prices rocket across the UK.

With increased demand but fewer donations, how are charities and foodbanks coping during these unprecedented times?

The Daily Echo decided to find out by spending a morning with Southampton City Mission on their Basics Banks project.

What is Basic Banks? 

The Christian charity fed nearly 15,600 people last year and has seen many more people using their food banks in the last few months thanks to the project.

READ MORE: Southern Daily Echo partners with City Mission to launch summer food bank campaign

Steve Williams, a City Mission van driver of nearly two years, does the Thursday collection and drop-off run for the charity.

Daily Echo: Steve Williams with a van full of donations Steve Williams with a van full of donations

He showed us the ropes of the project on Thursday, August 4 as part of our Boost the Bank campaign which encourages people to donate to their local food bank if they can.

Steve said: “Our busiest time is usually around Christmas, but at the moment because of inflation and increased prices we are seeing more people use the service this summer.

Daily Echo: Steve Williams loading donations for the Shirley food bank Steve Williams loading donations for the Shirley food bank

“As drivers, we don’t see quite so much of people using the food banks, but some people who come in are really desperate for food and they are so grateful to be able to feed their families.

“Some of them have no food at all.

“By using the service hopefully people can get themselves back on their feet and feed themselves.”

'An amazing organisation'

The day started at 7.30am at City Mission’s offices in Second Avenue, Southampton where the charity’s van was ready to go.

The amount of food gradually piled higher in the back of the van following visits to FareShare, Sainsbury’s in Portswood, Lidl in Shirley and Sainsbury’s in Shirley.

READ NEXT: 'For too many individuals' wages don't cover the basics'

Once the van was suitably full to the brim with fresh fruit, vegetables, bread, tinned food and toiletries, all the collections from the morning were unloaded at City Mission’s weekly food bank in Shirley Baptist Church.

Home to a number of volunteers every Thursday, this food bank helps between three and 100 people every week.

Helen Willis wanted to do something “useful and helpful” with her time so turned to volunteering with City Mission.

Daily Echo: Helen Willis (left) and Julia NevinsonHelen Willis (left) and Julia Nevinson

The 61-year-old said: “City Mission is a very good organisation to volunteer with as their whole ethos is about helping people move on.

“I love being a part of an amazing organisation - it’s extremely humbling.”

Fellow volunteer Julia Nevinson, 68, said: “I finished working in the NHS after 44 years so when that came to an end, I dreaded doing nothing.

“This is something that stood out to me due to the ethos of City Mission, its connection with the church, and being part of a team, which is all really important.”

Daily Echo: Food bank volunteers at Shirley Baptist ChurchFood bank volunteers at Shirley Baptist Church

The increased usage of food banks has not only been witnessed in Southampton but across the UK.

Between April 1, 2021, and March 31, 2022, food banks in the Trussell Trust’s UK-wide network distributed over 2.1 million emergency food parcels to people in crisis. The trust aims to end food poverty.

This is an increase of 14 per cent compared to the same period in 2019/20.

Julia added: “The people using the food bank have really diversified. Everything has capsized on them.

“We are seeing people you wouldn’t expect so it’s very diverse and has been in the past six months.”

Supermarket sweep 

After setting up the food bank for use from 10am the next stop was more supermarkets for donation box pick-ups.

Sainsbury’s was top of the list and Steve and I returned to the store in Shirley where we emptied two donation boxes – which were overflowing - and loaded them into the van.

Daily Echo: Food bank donations at City Mission's warehouse Food bank donations at City Mission's warehouse

We travelled further afield to Sainsbury’s in Lordshill and emptied the three donation boxes there.

From toiletries to long-life milk and tinned vegetables, there was a wide variety of items, showcasing people’s generosity.

This was all packed into the van for the final trip back to the city office, ready to be delivered to another food bank the next day.

Support Boost the Bank 

In a period of high demand due to the cost of living crisis, we are encouraging our readers to donate to the food banks to help the most vulnerable.

READ MORE: MP backs Echo's food bank campaign

The Southern Daily Echo's Editor, Ben Fishwick, said: "Times are exceptionally hard for people at the moment and at the Echo we've done all we can to support people through offers and money-saving tips in our Your Money Matters campaign - now we are asking for our readers' support in helping the most vulnerable.

"Giving anything to City Mission has the potential to make a real difference to the lives of people in Southampton, and I hope anyone who sees a donation point will stop and donate if they can."

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