Food bank issues urgent call to feed town’s children

Foundation hands out £62k to support community causes

HUNDREDS of children in Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge could go hungry this summer as parents struggle to afford enough food.

Nourish Community Foodbank, who work in both towns, have warned that in the months of July and August they anticipate a sharp rise in the number of children needing a food parcel.

Last year they saw a 57 per cent increase during that period, compared to the preceding two months.

In total, 203 individual children were referred to the charity by third parties who were in need of a three-day emergency food bag during July and August. This equated to more than 1,800 meals provided to children who were at risk of going hungry.

The latest statistics show that Nourish supplied 3,141 people over a year, a 34 per cent increase on the previous total.

It comes at the same time that recent figures from the Office of National Statistics show that the weekly earnings in both Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge are higher than the national average and on almost all economic measures the two boroughs compare favourably to the national picture.

“We always stress that it could be someone who works in your street”

However this on-paper affluence appears to mask hundreds of families who are struggling so much financially that they need Nourish to step in.

The foodbank’s Co-Chair, Paul Haines, said: “Despite the overall wealth of the town there are pockets of deprivation.

“We always stress that it could be someone who works in your street who has an incident or an accident that pushes them over the edge.”

Nourish provide short-term emergency support for individuals and families that are referred to them by various groups such as housing associations, local schools and domestic violence support groups.

On the subject of the summer spike in demand, he said: “In term-time, many children benefit enormously from the support schools provide through their breakfast clubs, in addition to free school meals.

“However, many families struggle with the increased financial cost of feeding children during the summer holidays. At Nourish, not only have we seen a rise in referrals at this time, but this also coincides with a dip in donations due to so many people being away on holiday.”

Since 2014, a child in the first three years of primary school is entitled to a free school lunch. Others, whose parents receive financial support from the state, can also receive free school meals.

With another expected surge this summer holidays, Nourish are asking residents to donate non-perishable food items for families struggling to put food on the table.

Nationally, foodbanks are a relatively recent phenomenon. In 2010-11 the Trussell Trust, Britain’s biggest foodbank network, gave out 61,500 food parcels, but by 2016-17 this had risen to almost 1.2 million.

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