Fermanagh foodbank warns worse to come in costs crisis

By John Carney
PEOPLE in Fermanagh have endured the worst cost of living crisis in decades as they continue to be pummelled with price rises across the board – but the worst is yet to come.
The UK’s energy price cap is expected to rise in October to around £2,800, Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem) chief executive Jonathan Brearley said. The current UK energy price cap, which applies until September 31, is £1,971 a year – and that amount was a £693 rise (54 per cent) from the previous cap six months earlier.
New research from the Food Standards Agency also revealed the number using a food bank in the UK has risen from almost one in 10 in March 2021 to nearly one in six this March.
“I dread October when this price hike happens and everyone starts using more gas and electricity in the winter. The cost of food is a big worry,” John Shades, manager of Enniskillen Food Bank, said.
“We’ve had more than a 20 per cent increase in clients compared to this time last year when people were struggling with the pandemic, so it’s much worse now.
“From April 1 we’ve given food to roughly 570 clients. This is all due to the rise in living costs. It’s harrowing to see some people bawling their eyes out as they can’t cope.”
Food banks are of increasing importance in the UK. Everton and Liverpool football fans bring food donations to their matches, which volunteers then distribute among food banks across their communities. They have become so essential, desperate families are worried about what they will do now that match day collections are over for the summer.
In the aftermath of Brexit and the Covid pandemic, fresh food prices are surging at their fastest rate in almost a decade, fuelling concerns that struggling families face a nightmare choice between eating and heating.
“We have food banks in Enniskillen, Irvinestown, Newtownbutler, and Belleek and all have seen a significant increase in users,” Mr Shades said. “People are not buying as much oil at this time of year, but that will change in the winter.
“It’s also the unforeseen expenses like when your car breaks down that can hit people hardest. Not everyone that comes to us is on benefits. Professional people are coming to us for help as well. They come from all walks of life.”
Two-thirds of UK adults have seen their cost of living jump over the past few months as energy bills soared and price rises filtered down to the shop shelves, but people in Fermanagh are still doing their best to help out.
“The community here has been incredible. We are just the middle man; they are donating the food. They stepped up during the pandemic to help others and they are doing the same now. The worry is that everyone is feeling the pinch and donations will start to drop,” Mr Shades said.
Enniskillen Food Bank is currently looking for volunteers. They can be contacted on tel: 07412133847 or email:

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The Fermanagh Herald is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
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