Schemes to feed hungry families across Wealden

New Uckfield food bank'Jenny Everett, Lesley Roots, Lucie Baxter
New Uckfield food bank'Jenny Everett, Lesley Roots, Lucie Baxter

Two schemes aimed at helping local people feed their families were unveiled in East Sussex this week.

The first was the launch of the Uckfield food bank.

Tomorrow (Saturday, September 21) Uckfield foodbank volunteers will be collecting donations at the town’s Tesco from 9am-5pm. All they ask is that shoppers buy, say one or two non-perishable tinned or processed items and place them in the foodbank trolley.

The Uckfield foodbank will work along the lines of Trussell Trust foodbanks, a charity started in 2000. Now almost 350,000 people across the UK have received at least three days’ worth of emergency food from food banks during the last year, nearly 100,000 more than expected.

Peter Roe, MD of Ashdown AV, galvanised a team of friends from various Uckfield churches to start a foodbank in the town. He said: “We knew there was a demand for emergency food in Uckfield as we had reports from neighbouring Hailsham that Uckfield people were travelling to collect from there.”

It has been in the planning stage for six months and opened to the public last week. All people wanting to make use of the service have to do is collect a voucher from one of several places, such as the Uckfield CAB offices, their GP centre, health visitors or social workers and take it to the foodbank in the King’s Centre, Grange Road on Tuesday and Friday afternoons between 2.30-4pm.

Co-organiser Ian Noble said: “They can sit down, have a cup of tea, cake and a chat if they would like. They can take away three days’ worth of food packed into Waitrose carrier bags - so there’s no embarassment about people knowing what they are doing - and they’re entitled to three lots each of three days’ worth.”

He explained that the rising cost of living, static wages, benefits changes, and unemployment have seen more and more people hit a crisis that forces them to go hungry.

The initiative mirrors another innovative scheme pioneered in East Sussex earlier this week. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall visited Ticehurst to help launch The Gleaning Network in the village and for farmers in neighbouring Heathfield and Mayfield. This scheme links growers and farmers with groups desperately needing fresh food, such as homeless hostels and charities.

Spokesman Martin Bowman explained: “Retailers often apply cosmetic standards meaning fruit and vegetables are wasted and often left to rot. The Soil Association reckons that between 20-40 per cent of produce is ‘outgraded’ before it reaches the consumer, often just hidden in fields. And last summer’s weather saw a large increase in the amount of wasted food.”

The Network began in the USA where it is ‘huge’ according to Martin. “There is nothing wrong with these foodstuffs and farmers are pleased that it can be used. We started in the UK two years ago, have hubs in London, Brighton, Cambridge, Kent and Manchester and plan to expand.” If any farmers would like waste produce used, then please email: martin@feeding5k.org