Charity boss left “stunned” as local food banks are overwhelmed by demand

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The founder of the Havens Food Cooperative, Paula Woolven, has been left stunned as services are overwhelmed in the Newhaven, Peacehaven and Telscombe Cliffs area.

Seahaven Community Food (SCDA Community Supermarkets) in Newhaven and Peacehaven put a hold on new members joining three weeks ago shortly followed by Newhaven Baptist Church announcing that their food bank is no longer accepting new clients as a temporary measure.

Unprecedented levels of demand for support have caused these front-line charities to take these measures to ensure their current members, numbering in the hundreds, continue to receive weekly food parcels. But it means that anyone finding themselves desperate for the first time, today, is unable to sign up for support.

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Paula runs the only food waste prevention and rapid redistribution pantry in the Havens, collecting the 'yellow stickered' food that supermarkets throw away nightly and feeding the community for free.

Paula Woolven, Havens Community HubPaula Woolven, Havens Community Hub
Paula Woolven, Havens Community Hub

Her team of over 35 volunteers collect from 18 supermarkets year-round and redistribute nearly half a million pounds worth of still edible perishable food to food banks, small groups, families and individuals between Saltdean and Seaford.

Paula said: "Although we aren't set up as a traditional food bank, we are the only current option for people finding themselves in severe need in the Newhaven and Peacehaven area today and I'm astounded by the total lack of action by the people that you would expect to step in and deal with a crisis like this - with no end in sight. We seem to be the only ones trying to find a solution to this unacceptable situation we unexpectedly suddenly find ourselves thrown into."

Havens Food Cooperative, a project of Havens Community Hub, has been collating emergency bags of food for people finding themselves with no current option to sign up with a local emergency food provider, with volunteers and supporters donating goods to help during this crisis period.

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Paula was contacted by a social worker this week for an elderly client who found himself unable to sign up for a local emergency food provider and who had been placed in one-room emergency housing with no bathroom or kitchen. There was nowhere else for him to turn.

Havens Food Cooperative delivered him emergency supplies and hygiene products and has agreed to supply the hostel with weekly supplies to support the 19 families and individuals in emergency accommodation to replace their former supplier.

Paula added: "We are receiving daily requests like this for support, and I totally understand and support the actions of the emergency food providers who have had to close their lists to protect their current clients - but where is the response from those we'd expect to step in? I've been warning local authorities of this impending situation for months. Honestly, I feel like I've got to stand of the roof of my building with a loudspeaker and start a rally to get any attention!"

To donate food to the Newhaven Baptist Church go to: www.newhavenbaptistchurch.co.uk/contact

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To donate food to Seahaven Community Food go to: sussexcommunity.org.uk/our-services/community-food

To make a donation to Havens Community Hub (Havens Food Coop) go to: localgiving.org/charity/havenscommunityhub

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