It's Tuesday afternoon at the Church of the Ascension, right in the middle of the `New Broughton' £500million regeneration area that was supposed to somehow help one of the most disadvantaged communities in Salford.
But at the Church of the Ascension, the only thing ascending are trays of pasta, tinned peaches and tomato sauce as volunteers prepare the Salford Central Foodbank for its opening.
Soon, a steady stream of people will arrive clutching vouchers given out by organisations on the front line of the city's poverty – including the Broughton Trust, Citizens Advice Bureau, Salford Young Carers Services, Salford Drug and Alcohol Team, Unlimited Potential, Salford Council's Adult Social Services and Early Intervention Team, and local schools and Children's Centres.
You can't just turn up and withdraw meal ingredients from the foodbank. You have to be referred. Which means that only those who have the severest needs, and are known to the system, can get help.
The help they get is a voucher for three days food and they can only use the service three times in any twelve month period. It's an emergency stopgap. And the emergencies are coming thick and fast. Around 250 people have been helped from the local community since the Central Salford Foodbank opened four months ago.
Volunteer, Andy McWilliam, a member of Christ Central Church in Manchester, one of the Trussell Trust partners behind the foodbank, believes that there is a direct link between welfare cuts and the growth of charitable handouts for the destitute.
"We get all sorts of people here, quite often it's people who have had sudden issues with the supply of their benefits, that kind of thing" he says "It's not providing a long term solution, it's intended as a stopgap. So if they've had a hold on their benefits it can fill that gap while they get them sorted.
"That's deliberate because we don't want people to get into the position of dependency on something" he adds "We want them to have the motivation to sort out the root issue."
Those root issues are getting harder and harder to sort out. A Salford Council report, seen by the Salford Star, lists the horrendous impacts that the ConDem Government's Welfare Reform Act of 2012 is having and will have as time progresses...
Around 5,000 people are set to lose Incapacity Benefit in Salford; over 19,000
working age households in Salford are set to be affected by Council Tax
Benefit cuts, which will lead to "unprecedented levels of Council Tax arrears";
the replacement of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) with the Personal
Independence Payment (PIP) will mean 11,000 people, or 20% of those currently supported will have financial help taken off them…
Meanwhile, the Bedroom Tax and rent rises will see unprecedented numbers of Salford people plunged into poverty and homelessness, and the Universal Credit system that starts in October will see lone parents and disabled people who live alone lose money. Those with disabled children are set to lose around £1,400 for each child. It's a recipe for social disaster.
The Salford Council report concludes that "the most vulnerable in the community are facing real cuts to their income; increased costs of daily living and the public services upon which many rely are under pressure". The report lists the consequences…
• Increased indebtedness
• Increased arrears of rent and Council Tax
• Increased use of high interest lenders and loan sharks
• Increased homelessness presentations and homes at risk of possession.
• Fewer people with contents insurance.
• Fewer people with savings.
• Higher levels of depression and mental health problems.
Yet, before most of the Dickensian measures have even come into being, the foodbanks are seeing demand "rocketing"…
"Clearly more and more people are getting into that level of trouble where they literally clearly can't put food on the table" says Andy "I think those statistics have gone up expeditiously over the last couple of years and it shows a real change. It's not just that food banks are springing up and therefore people are using them, it's demand driven. People are in need and increasingly so."
Yesterday, Salford Council voted in favour of a budget that passed on £23.4million of cuts. It included cutting support to some of the most vulnerable young and old people in the city, reducing Council Tax Benefit support and increasing rents on social homes.
At the Council meeting, Deputy Mayor David Lancaster declared that he was "ashamed that there are foodbanks here in Salford"…
* Central Salford Foodbank, run by the Trussell Trust, is open Tuesdays and Fridays 2-4pm.
* For enquiries contact the Trust on 07583 256787 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
* For further details see the website – click here
* All food and supplies handed out are donated by local supermarkets or community collections. On Saturday 9th March there's going to be a public food collection at the new Tesco on Salford Precinct 10am-5pm where people can donate food.