THE Salvation Army’s shop in Market Street has been serving the community of Newtown since it opened in 2008; an initiative founded by Newtown Corps Officer, Samantha Jones, whose efforts date back to 2001.

The organisation has seen a steady rise in demand over the past decade; but according to volunteers, the past 6 months have been their most challenging yet.

Regional AM, Eluned Morgan and local Labour activists met with staff at the foodbank, where they were told of 258 crisis packages being supplied to locals – a 25% increase on last year's numbers for the same period of January – July.

...And these figures are not unique. Dependency has soared at a higher rate than ever over the past year, as changes to welfare benefits have failed to cover basic living costs.

“People are living on a financial tightrope,” said Eluned, “Many have just enough to get by each week - there’s no 'rainy day' reserves and many are pushed into serious difficulties by a big bill or a gap in income. The choice between heating or eating is the reality for families plunged into debt.”

Those arriving for support often bring along other problems too; depression and anxiety are common, leading many already over-worked and under-resourced foodbanks to double-up as welfare centres.

This issue was not lost on the AM, who earlier this year teamed up with Labour members and local organisations to host a Money & Wellbeing session at the Welshpool Town Hall, providing a one-stop-shop for financial advice in response to the Universal Credit roll-out.

According to Foodbank manager, Coleen O'Brien, the statistics confirm that more and more people are turning to their service and from far-reaching areas within Montgomeryshire. "Based on what we are seeing so far, we estimate that we will be supporting over 500 families this year.” Coleen added, “ Without the generous donations of food and goods to us here on Market Street in Newtown, it would continue to be increasingly testing to meet the needs of those within our community. The goods we receive are sold through our shop and converted to funds that enable to us to keep the Foodbank available."

In addition to the providing free breakfasts every Sunday, the team have recently launched a monthly meet-up at Newtown's Costa Coffee, providing a 'safe space' for people to discuss issues such as homelessness, modern day slavery and family tracing - their next session is scheduled for July 21st.

Commenting on the increased demand, Eluned said: "It is scandalous and beyond concerning, that here in the UK, the 5th richest country in the World, we are continuing to see a growing dependence on foodbanks.

“Whilst the Tory Government in Westminster is well aware of the factors driving so many vulnerable families into poverty, they are choosing not to act. Instead, they are shamefully passing on their duty of care to charities.

“I'd like to thank Coleen and all of the brilliant volunteers at Newtown's Salvation Army for their generosity and compassion in the face of such challenging circumstances - their vital work truly provides a lifeline for so many in the community."

Newtown Foodbank Statistics:

Month 2017 2018 2019

Jan 36 51 68

Feb 29 32 30

March 45 36 42

April 26 42 29

May 19 47 48

June 24 28 43

July 34 19

Aug 23 36

Sept 33 29

Oct 31 37

Nov 25 38

Dec 19 32

Total for 2017: 344

Total for 2018: 427

Total for 2019 so far: 258

Christmas Toys and Tins Appeal Stats:

2018: Toy parcels 198, Christmas food hampers 119

2017: Toy parcels 220, Christmas food hampers 113

2016: Toy parcels 164, Christmas food hampers 89