Some residents refused to acknowledge there is poverty in Lewes when they stopped to talk to the woman behind Lewes Food Bank at the weekend.
Pearl Zia, who launched the food bank for the De Montfort estate, where she lives, six months ago, had a stall outside Waitrose to collect food and give out information to shoppers from Friday to Sunday.
“There was everyone from a posh lady who had got herself into debt and was being threatended with eviction by her landlord, but still bought something for the food bank, to others who said ‘we don’t have food poverty in Lewes, we can buy our food’,” she said.
“I told them I wouldn’t be here if there wasn’t a need.
“I wanted to educate people and let them know what is happening to people.
“Every person I spoke to brought back something with their shopping - even pensioners and older people.”
In all 1,393 food items were collected and £162.83, which will go towards the food bank’s £300 admin fee to Foodshare which supplies fresh produce.
Among the items were 207 tins of beans, 133 tins of soup and 113 tins of fish.
Pearl was forced to leave London three years ago and moved into temporary accommodation in Brighton where the food bank helped her through some ‘tough times’.
“I had no money and by the time I got benefits six weeks had gone by,” she said.
“I was referred to the food bank and used them for a couple of weeks.”
When she moved to Lewes 18 months ago she felt she could help.
“I thought there must be loads of people who need help and it’s getting worse with the universal credit, people who are working trying to keep a roof over their heads and pensioners too embarrassed to ask for food,” she said.
“I have 40 people on the books at the moment and it’s growing every week.”
Pearl said there is another food bank run entirely separately on the Landport estate and she was trying to start another in Malling.
She has a team of volunteers helping her run Lewes Food Bank, including one who worked from 9.30am to about 8pm for two days sorting out the food they had collected.
Lewes Food Bank is open to anyone in need in Lewes and clients can be referred by the Job Centre, East Sussex County Council, health visitors and social workers. Contact Pearl at firstname.lastname@example.org