'My heart aches' - thousands of Ipswich children forced to rely on food parcels
Struggling children in Ipswich are being forced to survive on emergency food parcels because their families cannot make ends meet, it has been revealed.
Maureen Reynel said that she wants to "rescue" the town's poverty-stricken children after revealing that Families In Need (FIND), which she founded the 1990s, handed out 2,635 food parcels to people aged under 17 in 2019.
That means young people make up more than 40% of everyone receiving emergency help, with 3,575 adults given food parcels in the same period.
Asked why she thought the shocking level of children getting help was so high, Mrs Reynel said: "Parents are really struggling."
Many, she said, might be able to cope for three weeks of the month - but the fourth week when they are hit with bills and expenses forces them into the red and to call on the charity for food.
She also believes complications over new Universal Credit (UC) benefit system, designed to simplify multiple benefits into a single payment, has pushed many others to breaking point.
The risks, she said, are that children are going to school cold and malnourished - harming their learning, health and happiness.
"I feel pretty sad about it," she said. "I know some of the circumstances that children are living in.
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"It's not always the parents' deliberate fault. It's things that have happened that have led to there being nothing.
"Quite often, when parents are not in a good place emotionally, children are in the firing line.
"No child has any control over what their situation is. It's the adult who has to care for those children.
"Children just need the basics - they don't ask for much. They just need to be fed, warm and go to school feeling ready for a day's work.
"If they're feeling sad in the morning, hungry and cold, it's not until the afternoon that they're eating. All that teaching in the morning goes out of the window.
"My heart aches for those little ones. I want to rescue them so they grow up to be adults who can look after themselves."
Mrs Reynel set up FIND in Ipswich 20 years ago to provide food and household equipment to people struggling to make ends meet.
Since then the charity's workload has steadily grown as ever-increasing numbers ask for help, so much so that FIND outgrew its premises and struggled to cope with demand.
This month it has officially unveiled new and larger premises in Braziers Wood Road, finally allowing it to store more goods and make use of more volunteers.
However she said there is "just no let up" in the number of referrals to FIND and predicted that the charity would still be needed in 20 years.