Figures released by the Trussell Trust at the end of 2020 found that food banks in its UK network saw a 47 per cent increase.
More than 1.2 emergency food parcels were given to people who were struggling to afford essentials between April 1 and September 20, 2020, making it the busiest ever half-year period for the charity.
The Midhurst branch is run by The Trussell Trust and currently has 66 volunteers.
Liz Willing, Midhurst Food Bank co-ordinator, said: “Since the first lockdown in March 2020 the food bank has operated as a delivery service. It is the best way to keep all clients and volunteers safe.
“The requests for food have markedly increased, initially because of the suddenness of the change. People panicked when they had no work and would therefore not be paid. The 12 months since then have been very busy.
“Many ‘new users’ are reluctant to come forward but are extremely grateful for the support that is available and we know they hope to get back to normal as soon as possible.”
She adds that the number of clients varies throughout the month. On average, ten families contact them during a single week, so they feed around 30 individuals a week.
Since January 2021 the food bank has carried out 120 deliveries, feeding 355 individuals (202 adults, 153 children) compared with 71 over the same period in 2020, feeding a total of 182 individuals.
Volunteers work in pairs, with dedicated warehouse staff who keep an eye on stock and work closely with Chichester Food Bank to keep the shelves filled with food, toiletries and cleaning materials.
Items which can be donated include: dried foods like rice and pasta and tinned soups, vegetables, meat, fruit. Biscuits and savoury snacks, sauces to make pasta ‘different’ help. Coffee and tea, fruit juices and squashes, long-life milk too.
Liz said: “Unfortunately, we can’t accept fresh foods as we never know exact demand and so, when the food will be delivered.
“We are legally obliged to check that all the food we supply is in date too. The Trussell Trust does not allow us to distribute alcohol or tobacco.
“It’s easy to forget that those who can’t afford to feed themselves won’t be able to buy basic and essential toiletries and cleaning products too. Some also have a pet dog or cat – a loved member of their families or a valuable companion for a single person.”
The stock varies according to what has been collected or donated. In the past they have had shortages of rice, pasta and milk.
She said: “Puddings often get over looked, as do biscuits – everyone looks forward to a cup of tea and a biscuit.”
When it comes to running the food bank Liz says the community has been amazing.
She said: “Individuals, businesses, charitable groups, churches, local farmers and schools have all donated incredibly generously.
“The Rotary Club has supported the food bank physically, practically and financially too. Thanks to them and a collection by Lintotts/Co-op Undertakers, every child received an Easter egg this year, and at Christmas the Spread Eagle Hotel provided homemade Christmas puddings for families.”
For more information, visit www.trusselltrust.org