A CRUCIAL foodbank service says it continues to be a “vital lifeline” for residents, even as the country moves towards the end of lockdown.

The Braintree Area Foodbank, which has centres in Braintree, Witham and Halstead, has seen a surge in foodbank usage during the pandemic.

Organisers say they saw a two and a half times rise across their distribution network at the start of the pandemic.

But as Covid figures fall during the Government’s ‘roadmap’ out of the pandemic, the foodbank says it continues to play an important role.

The foodbanks, including the St Andrew’s church centre in Halstead, are appealing for residents to continue donating, despite the pandemic easing, and have thanked residents for their help over the past year.

Halstead Gazette: Ltr - Amber Manning, Amy Blackburn, Rebecca Hiley, Lee Ranson n Oct 2020Ltr - Amber Manning, Amy Blackburn, Rebecca Hiley, Lee Ranson n Oct 2020

More than 5,800 people, including children, were fed across the network in the 2020 to 2021 financial year.

A spokesman said: “During the Covid-19 pandemic our distribution centres have continued to support those who most need our service in their time of crisis.

“Our operation has had to adapt the way we deliver our service to adhere to the rules and regulations that have been ever-changing throughout 2020/21, including the introduction of social distancing, PPE and other protective measures including screens at all of our centres.

“We employed the use of operational bubbles to keep our volunteers and staff safe, and moved to an electronic referral system, further protecting our agency partners and our clients.

“At the beginning of the pandemic we saw a two-and-a-half times uptake in crisis support across our distribution centre network.

“As the figures show, we continue to be a vital lifeline for those who visit us every year.

“The number of people fed including children across our distribution centres during 2020/21 was 5,842.”

Almost 3,000 were adults and 2,858 were children.

Across the East of England, the Trussell Trust, which includes the Braintree Area Foodbank, distributed 244,595 food parcels to residents.

Since opening in 2012, the Braintree Area Foodbank has fed more than 33,000 residents and costs about £50,000 a year to keep running.

Halstead Gazette: Dave from the Witham distribution centreDave from the Witham distribution centre

The foodbank spokesman added: “Generally, folk will attend the centre that is open at the time they are given the food voucher.

“We have two distribution centres in Braintree, one in Halstead and one in Witham. Our referral agencies also provide support with emergency deliveries where necessary.

“We continue to be part of the solution for food poverty in the Braintree district and surrounding areas, and this will continue to be the case as it has been over the last eight years.

“Without the generous and fantastic support from our donors and volunteers, we simply would not be able to be here for 5,842 people who received food from us last year.

“In 2021, it simply isn’t right that food poverty continues to be ever-present within our community.”