A Tunbridge Wells foodbank is calling for more support after reporting a significant rise in the number of people using the service over the last 12 months.
There has been a 38 per cent hike in the referrals of residents who are seeking emergency provisions – and not just because of poverty.
The number of people that actually end up using the Nourish Tunbridge Wells Community Foodbank has also increased by more than a third.
And one of the greatest concerns, for a second year running, is a big rise in customers who have been victims of domestic violence.
According to Nourish’s Co-Chair, Paul Haines, ‘when you look at the numbers alone, there’s a 63 per cent increase in the number of domestic violence cases we supported last year’.
Operations Manager Dawn Stanford believes that this shows the foodbank is no longer the preserve of those facing financial difficulties.
“Domestic violence now accounts for 13 per cent, or one in eight of all foodbags we distribute,” she said. “It’s an issue that cuts across all sectors of society.
“You don’t have to be poor to suffer domestic violence.”
She adds: “We are also increasingly providing support for people who are unwell or who have mental health issues.”
Nourish, which opened its doors in November 2012, gives out food bags which provide three days’ worth of supplies for the needy.
It gained nationwide media coverage after the Times highlighted the fact it is one of very few foodbanks which features a delivery service, to ensure confidentiality and avoid embarrassment for its clients.
We have increasingly had to use our backup funds. Nourish helped 3,141 people in crisis in the 12 months up to March this year, from its base at Big Yellow Self-Storage on Longfield Road.
The voluntary initiative was set up in response to increasing numbers of low-income working households in the region and people who had seen their benefits cut or lost their jobs.
Mr Haines said: “It’s important to recognise that this increase is also on the back of record numbers last year.
“It has been a struggle as we are reliant upon the generosity of the public in making food and financial donations to help us provide this much-needed service.
“But this year we have increasingly had to use our backup funds.”
Co-chair Olga Johnson insists that despite the huge increases, Nourish is not encouraging dependency. Almost two thirds of the customers only need one food bag.
“This illustrates the short-term, emergency nature of the support we provide,” she said. “People do not become dependent as we only provide a maximum of 12 food bags per year.
“For the few people who require additional support we always signpost further support and help from our partner organisations.”
Families and individuals must be referred to Nourish in the first instance by Social Services or by local housing groups, Citizens Advice Bureau, churches, schools and doctors’ surgeries.
Last year it worked with 93 agencies in Tunbridge Wells and the surrounding area, and it is currently considering an expansion into South Tonbridge.
If you would like to donate money or food, or help with volunteering, visit www.nourishcommunityfoodbank.org.uk.
For more information, contact email@example.com or call 01892 548892.
FOOD BANK FACTS:
- More than a million people used food banks across the UK last year.
In Tunbridge Wells 17 per cent of households are living in poverty, according to the Office of National
- Statistics – a 6 per cent increase since Nourish started in 2012.
- The number of children living beneath the poverty line has gone up by almost 3 per cent to 14 per cent in the last five years; 43 per cent of Nourish clients last year were under the age of 18.
- One in three referrals last year came as a result of changes in welfare payments, while 12 per cent had debt issues and seven per cent cited unemployment.
- Nourish has received 31.5 tonnes of food donations in the last 12 months.