There was a sign of economic recovery in Lynn this week when a sharp fall in the number of people relying on Lynn Food Bank was linked to a drop in local unemployment.
The organisation fed 3,146 adults and children living in crisis last year, compared with 3,909 in 2014 – a drop of just under 20 per cent.
One of the main reasons for the decrease was the halving of the number of people referred to the Food Bank by Lynn’s Job Centre Plus.
Last year the centre gave out 327 food bank vouchers, which are exchanged for three days supply of emergency food, compared to 643 vouchers in 2014.
Anti-poverty campaigner and church member Christopher Lindley, who compiled the latest food bank figures, said fewer people were visiting the Lynn Job Centre as unemployment figures fall.
But despite the significant drop in the number of vouchers handed out by the centre, the research showed that the reasons for which they were given were almost entirely due to people having their benefits stopped through sanctions or being changed.
Mr Lindley said: “The figures show a significant fall in sanctions but 63 people were still losing their benefits each month, some for trivial reasons.”
Reasons for sanctions can include not turning up to a meeting at the Job Centre, not doing enough to look for work and not taking part in an employment or training scheme.
A total of 1,749 food bank vouchers were handed out in 2015, with other distributors including the Citizens Advice Bureau, the Purfleet Trust, the Probation Service and Genesis Housing.
The two main reasons for other organisations giving out vouchers were once again benefit sanctions and changes, and also low income, debt or unemployment.
Benefits problems accounted for 50 per cent of vouchers in 2015, compared to 62.5 per cent in 2014, with low income, debt and unemployment being the reason for 27.8 per cent of the vouchers in 2015 compared to 17.4 per cent the previous year.
Of the 1,749 vouchers, 93 (5.3 per cent) were given to homeless people whilst 976 (55.8 per cent) were given to people living in the four wards in Lynn (St Margaret’s with St Nicholas, North Lynn, Gaywood Chase and Fairstead).
In 2014 a total of 2,141 vouchers were handed out and in 2013 there were 1,7 31.
The drop in food bank usage figures is also due to the non-inclusion of figures from Hunstanton Food Bank from October 18 last year, when it became independent from the Lynn organisation.
The Lynn Food Bank, which moved from St Ann’s Fort to the Red Cross headquarters in Austin Fields last summer, is run by the Trussell Trust charity and opened in October 2011.
It also distributes food parcels from its facility at the Sovereign Centre in Sovereign Way, Downham.
Anyone wanting to make a donation of money or food to the Food Bank can visit www.kingslynn.foodbank.org.uk or contact 07582 558143.