Food need deepens as desperate young families face cash crises

Malcolm Richards, Food Bank, George Street, Hailsham
Malcolm Richards, Food Bank, George Street, Hailsham
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Parents had to turn to emergency food rations in order to feed their young families as the cost of living and Christmas bit into their savings.

The foodbank in Hailsham is now helping to feed more people each day than that of a similar initiative in a inner city, said Malcolm Richards, who manages the town’s scheme.

During the festive period 46 people turned to the charity for help.

Since it opened on George Street in October the scheme has fed 481 people.

The Hailsham organisation is currently feeding an average of 16 people a day, compared to a scheme he ran in Exeter, which fed 13 people each day, said Mr Richards.

The foodbank manager said: “We were busy. We fed, on the Friday before Christmas, 28 people and then we fed 18 people on the Friday after Christmas.

“We are busier than I expected, but it’s hard to gauge because we are new. I used to run a Food Bank in Exeter, so based on my expectations from there I thought it wouldn’t be as busy, so to get 28 people far exceeded expectations.

“People are becoming aware of its existence and the need is growing.”

He added: “It’s not the client base you would expect. Sometimes it’s people who are working but cannot afford to eat.

“There are many young families, mainly the 25-35-year-old age group with kids at home.

“They are working, so not on benefits, but the cost of living is going up and wages are not.

“People feel a bit ashamed having to come in so the main task of volunteers is to make them at ease and reassure them there is no judgement and make sure everything we can do is being done.

“We also make sure there is a long term strategy to help them cope.”

The foodbank relies on donations from churches, schools, supermarkets and individuals to prepare food boxes for the area’s most desperate people.

It only accepts referrals from third party agencies such as the Citizens Advice Bureaux.

A combination of low income and debts has led to the crisis, said Mr Richards.

Before Christmas the Sussex Express told how figures showed 27 per cent of the town’s population was living below the poverty line - 19 per centage points above the national average on the social deprivation indices, he said.

A survey last year by Marketing Sciences found one in ten people in the South East of England had skipped meals to feed their family or relied on family or friends for food in the last year.