A food bank hashtag campaign has helped fill the shelves of a Tees Valley Community Centre.
In the last few weeks, an unprecedented amount of food bank donations have been handed over to Firthmoor Community Centre in Darlington.
According to the Trussell Trust in areas that have seen full implementation of Universal credit have seen an increase of 30% in the use of food banks. This is 17% higher than the national average.
On the back of this increase Watson Harrop, a member of the North East Traveller community, began a viral campaign.
Inspired after seeing and hearing stories of people going without the most basic essentials this Winter.
The campaign, #FOODBANKCHALLENGE, exploded almost overnight and has now reached as far afield as Sweden and the U.S.
The challenge has now been met by all members of the North East community.
Firthmoor Community Centre has felt the full effect of this campaign, receiving more than four times as many donations as usual.
Steven Tait is the Chairman at the Community Centre.
He said: “The food bank that we run from Firthmoor Community Centre is run by volunteers and we rely solely on donations for this as well as for the project itself.”
“The influx of donations we are receiving at the moment is phenomenal.
“Within the travelling community it started (#foodbankchallenge) with Watson Harrop Jr and has just snowballed from there.
“It’s not just the Travelling community that are donating, it’s other members of the community as well. Its having a knock-on effect because people are being nominated.
“Over this year alone we’ve given out over 3,300 meals to people in need. We’ve noticed that people are having to choose between heating their homes and eating so we can help them by providing a food hamper.”
The community centre serves around 10,000 people within the Eastbourne ward.
It provides services like a community cafe, breakfast clubs and after school clubs, as well as a nursery, dentist and social clubs.
Jonathan Dulston is Head of Charity Operations.
Jonathan said: “People do come in to crisis and it’s not necessarily just food that they need.
It’s also other essentials like toiletries, cat food, dog food and personal hygiene products.”
“People are often only one step away from needing to use a food bank. That’s the reality.
“A wide range of people use the service for loads of reasons. Boiler problems cost money and so do school uniforms.
Everyday things can put people into financial difficulty.”
Firthmoor Community Centre runs events throughout the year aimed at working with the community, bringing families together and helping people in tough circumstances.
To keep up to date with their activities head over to their Facebook page.