Late last year, West Sussex county council announced proposals to close 32 children and family centres across the county, along with plans to improve and redesign its Early Help services and increase support for vulnerable children and families.
The Lancing centre, in North Road, is one of the centres facing closure and is one of the places from where the Lancing and Sompting food bank operates.
Mark Deacon, chairman of trustees at the food bank, has been volunteering for four years. He said volunteers had been ‘really grateful’ for the support of the centre.
He added: “They have been really great partners, providing us with two storerooms and a café area where we can see people and where people can talk to our team. Operating from the Lancing children and family centre has been a really positive experience for us.
“We are going to have to find somewhere else to operate from, so there’s that element of uncertainty. We need premises where we can see people with a degree of confidentiality. The children and family centre has no stigma attached to it, so nobody knows why you may be going there.
“We want people to feel comfortable coming to us, we don’t want a massive sign to say ‘food bank’. We operate on a no-judgement policy. If people need food, that is the only judgement we make. If you need food, we will help you.”
Mr Deacon said the group hoped to develop its services and offer fresh food and have space for freezers. “At the moment, we have to turn down offers of fresh stuff as we do not have the facilities to handle it,” he added.
“We want somewhere where we can continue service as it is, and in the perfect world we would like to work with the council to have some space where we can deal with fresh produce.”
The coronavirus pandemic had led to a ‘massive increase’ in demand for the services at the Lancing and Sompting food bank, Mr Deacon said, adding anyone who needed help should ask.
“We are encouraging everyone who needs us to phone or Facebook message us, so that way we can arrange an appointment for them to arrive at the door of the centre to collect food.
“Normally we would sit down and chat with our clients, but due to Covid we can’t do that. However, people can walk into the lobby and talk to our team through the doors.”
A report from the Lancing and Sompting food bank showed 62 ‘basic bags’ – containing enough to support a family for at least three days – were given to families last month. Nine extra bags were also provided to families where they needed support for longer.
Mr Deacon said without the support of the community, Lancing and Sompting food bank would not be able to operate and would not be able to meet its high demand.
“Our community has been fantastic,” he added.
“We have had gifts of cash and massive food donations. Christmas was insane, we were able to be incredibly generous.
“We also want to acknowledge Lancing Co-op who provide us with collection points and boxes to shift food.
“I also want to say a massive thank you on behalf of everyone connected to the food bank for the generous donations all year round.
“The whole of Lancing and Sompting is behind us and we are able to do what we do because of the generosity of our community.”
Anyone who would like to support the food bank, or who needs support, can call 07719 196735 or visit www.facebook.com/LSCFoodBank