MORE than 4,600 people in Tunbridge Wells and south Tonbridge required an emergency supply of food over the past year – a 47 per cent increase.
Statistics released by Nourish Community Foodbank show that from April 2016– March 2017 they supplied a total of 41,256 meals, in the form of three-day emergency supply packages.
During the year, the charity expanded their operations into south Tonbridge. This contributed to 60 per cent of the year’s growth.
But the 1,476 more people they helped compared to the previous year was fueled by an increase in the number of families needing support – up 50 per cent.
Nourish Co-Chair, Paul Haines said: “Each year our numbers increase and we did anticipate an uplift as we had started working with a small number of referral agencies covering the south Tonbridge area at the start of October.
“We were surprised that the number of families we support has increased, however, data shows that one in six children in both Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge districts are living in poverty.”
The figure he referred to comes from End Child Poverty, a coalition of more than 100 charities, who conduct campaign and research on the issue.
Their estimate is based on a complex set of factors but roughly defines a child in poverty as living in a household with 60 per cent lower than the median income.
Nourish works with over 100 referral organisations who determine if there is a genuine need for an emergency food bag that contains three days’ supply of non-perishable food, equivalent to nine meals.
Over the year, 1,963 separate referrals were made to Nourish, a 44 per cent increase on the previous year. The Citizens’ Advice Bureau, Social Services, Domestic Violence organisations and local housing associations accounted for 55 per cent of referrals.
That has been a noticeable change this year,” explained Operations Manager Dawn Stanford. “We are seeing more and more referrals for Goudhurst and Cranbrook, places where people would think there is little need for a foodbank. This shows that there is a real need right across our community and it’s an issue that is not going away.”
Nourish Co-Chair Olga Johnson added that despite the increase in numbers, Nourish remains a short-term, temporary support for people in crisis, with 81 per cent of people receiving three or less packages.