Foodbank had 16,000 pleas for help over a year

Olympian Louis Smith

Nourish Community Foodbank, which provides meals for families that are struggling financially in Tunbridge Wells and South Tonbridge, saw the number of people needing its service in the 2020/2021 financial year rocket to 16,238, up from 10,141 the year before, its most recent report has revealed.

The organisation helps families who are referred to the foodbank from more than 100 various organisations such as Social Services or the Citizens Advice Bureau.

Each referral can be for a single person or a large family and the foodbank provides enough food for three days’ worth of meals.

According to Nourish’s end of year report, the charity saw referrals rise by 32 per cent last year, from 3,500 in 2019/20 to 5,710, and the organisation has blamed the pandemic for the rise in people needing its help.

The foodbank provided more than 146,000 meals over the year, enough to give everybody in the borough of Tunbridge Wells a plate of food.

Almost half (46 per cent) of the meals they provided were for children under 18, and the charity has noticed a change in the types of people they help, due to the various lockdowns.

Dawn Stanford and Paul Haines

“The impact of Covid-19 on our community has played a huge part in the increase of households that we have supported and, as with previous years, it saddens us that we are still seeing such a significant increase in the need for foodbank services year on year,” said Paul Haines, Chair of the organisation’s Trustees.

“The figures show an alarming 60 per cent increase in the referral numbers of people in food crisis that the foodbank supported from within the borough of Tunbridge Wells, South Tonbridge and the surrounding areas.”

He said most of those referred for help were in short-term crisis.

Operations Director Dawn Stanford added: “For many recipients, we helped them apply for Universal Credit as they had never needed to be supported before.

“Of the 20 per cent of people who were referred to us due to debt or benefit changes, many were hard working families where one or both adults were made redundant, on zero hours contracts, or in low-paid work and didn’t have the support of the furlough scheme.”

She continued: “Each year we are also truly concerned about the number of children (0-15 years) that are within our statistics – 46 per cent of the people supported by Nourish during 2020/2021 were children.

“We don’t imagine the affluently-perceived Tunbridge Wells borough as having a poverty issue and yet a shocking 9.1 per cent of children are living in poverty,” she claimed.

Dawn added that the largest increase in referrals came from domestic abuse cases, which accounted for 35 per cent of the people they saw.

“Sadly the lockdown restrictions exacerbated household issues for many people,” she said.

The report also showed that Nourish received 57.3 tonnes of food donations during the year, and financial donations totalled £380,013, dwarfing the income it received from grants of £147,579.

By Victoria Roberts

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