A city on the brink? Birmingham facing ‘disaster’ as unemployment hits levels not seen since Eighties


It was on the very first day that Sarah Ventre cried.

Last October, the 32-year-old was one of a half dozen professional caterers who, concerned by rising unemployment in the Northfield area of Birmingham, set up a food bank at the local Baptist church.

The group has since grown to deliver 700 hot meals every Thursday to families facing severe hardship as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

But on that first day, as she took calls from residents asking for assistance, the mother-of-one could not stop herself breaking down.

“It was the third call, someone who had found themselves out of work and they were trying to justify needing help,” she remembers today. “They were saying they’d never asked for anything before but they’d been made redundant in summer and just having a hot meal would help them through the week. And in the background, I could just hear a child asking if we’d said yes. They were saying how hungry they were.”

If the story is heart-breaking, it is, it seems, far from unique.

Rather, Ms Ventre and her food bank are on the front line of a major crisis now quietly engulfing England’s second biggest city.


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