Ipswich: More than 1,000 offences of stealing food in the town

As the country zigzags out of a four-year recession, the Star can reveal more than 1,000 offences for stealing food during the grim economic period were recorded across the region.

There were 1,242 shoplifting offences related to the theft of food in nearly the last four years in Suffolk, a Freedom of Information request showed.

In 2009 there were 322 food shoplifting offences, while last year saw a 32 per cent rise from 2010 (296 cases) to 390. There have been 234 – up to November 11 – this year.

Ipswich Soup Kitchen, a service run by Churches Together and 150 helpers in Tower Street every evening from 8-9pm, says the number of people coming to it for food has doubled this year.

“This has been our worst year in 20 years of running the soup kitchen,” said project co-ordinator Ian Walters.

“The amount of people coming to us for food has doubled. We get people from all walks of life and they’re not just homeless people.

“A lot of people are struggling to get by and buy food. We are preparing for next year in case it gets worse. We could end up getting more.”

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FareShare, a UK charity which supports communities to relieve food poverty, said almost 60pc of the charities they provide food and drink for reported an increase in people needing food.

“A recent survey showed 59pc of the 700-plus charities that we distribute food to have said they have seen a rise in people needing food,” FairShare said.

“It was 40pc in 2011, so these new figures are a big surprise for us. We are very concerned.

“Obviously the tough economic climate has had an effect and people are less employed and struggling to meet the needs of their families.

“People need to be more aware of the support services in their area and know more about their local charities.”

A Suffolk police spokesman said: “In the lead up to Christmas we will be working hard to prevent shoplifting through an increased police presence in town centres and will target persistent offenders.”