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Sheerness food bank chief says rise in demand suggests going is still tough for Sheppey residents

By Lewis Dyson

The head of the Island’s foodbank scheme says there is “no doubt whatsoever” demand for handouts has risen in Swale in the last year.

Chris Norman was speaking after the UK’s biggest foodbank the Trussell Trust revealed more than 900,000 people in Britain received emergency food from 2013 to 2014, compared to around 350,000 in 2012 to 2013.

He said although it is difficult to put into numbers the levels of need in the borough, there has been a steep rise in use of the Family Food Bank.

Chris Norman at the Sheerness Family Food Bank
Chris Norman at the Sheerness Family Food Bank

Mr Norman, based at Seashells, in Rose Street, Sheerness, said: “We have moved from two distribution points [in Sittingbourne and Sheppey] 12 months ago to 23 today, with a further expansion into Ashford due shortly, so it is difficult to quantify the increase in demand for our services due to the wider reach we now have.

“However, we know from working at the sharp end and dealing with people in crisis on a daily basis, that we have seen an increase in demand for the services we can provide over the last 12 months.”

He added: “We wouldn’t be expanding our services unless there was a demand for it.”

Information showing greater reliance on handouts goes against indicators that appear to show the economy is on the up, such as reduced joblessness.

But Mr Norman believes people being referred to the Family Food Bank are not any better off and the poorest are experiencing a “lag” in any economic upturn.

He said: “Politicians state that unemployment is down but you need to understand the big

“At grassroots level I don’t believe families are finding it any easier to thrive.

“Everyone is talking about the recovery but the truth is it’s still difficult out there.”

Mr Norman said he looks forward to the day when a foodbank is not necessary in Kent and he is already looking to the longer term.

He has taken on the role of operations manager for FareShare Kent, a community interest company which is looking to set up links with supermarkets so that surplus, fit for consumption food does not go to waste.

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