Food banks across Kent could be stretched to breaking point this summer in an effort to keep children from going hungry.
According to Trussell Trust figures, more than 14,000 food bank parcels were given out to adults and children in Kent during the school holidays in 2018, a 14 percent increase from the previous year’s summer holiday.
The trust now expect an even bigger increase in demand this year.
Sam Humberstone, manager of Shepway’s Trussell Trust food bank, predicts a 40 percent increase in families and children relying on food banks during this years summer period.
“Our area manager just cannot believe we've doubled our workload,” she said. “We've actually got less volunteers than we had last year, and we're working so hard but I've never known our shelves to empty so quickly.”
Shepway is one of the hardest hit areas in Kent for food bank usage, with a 90% increase in people using the service from the first half of 2018 to the first half of 2019.
Ray Field, Labour councillor for Folkestone Harbour Ward, said he and other councillors in the area are getting together this week to come up with a plan to tackle the problem.
“We are very aware and very concerned, we know this is an urgent priority,” he said. “It’s a multi-agency working situation, but we hope to try and alleviate it.
"In an ideal world we wouldn’t need food banks. We need to work out how to eradicate the problem instead of increasing it.”
Food banks experience an increase in the summer because children do not have access to free school meals and breakfast clubs, putting greater financial pressure on parents to provide additional meals.
Lorraine Schulze, manager of Medway’s Trussell Trust food bank, said Medway council ran a pilot scheme last year but do not have the funds to run it again this year.
“This is one of those areas where I'm not sure that pilot schemes are needed,” she said. “I think it's quite obvious that the need is there.
“They obviously realised that last year there was a need and ran something.
"They probably realised that there's going to be a need this year, but they just don't have the money to be able to fund somebody to put something on to support these families.”
Sheila Ward started working for the Deal Trussell Trust food bank seven years ago, and at the time there were only 50 volunteers. There are now over 130 helping get food parcels out to families in the area.
Sheila said one of the most ‘startling’ changes is the number of people in work having to rely on the food bank.
“When we started seven years ago, it really wasn't envisaged that people in work would also be claiming food. And that's rather sad, horrid to see.”
They are now running an early evening food bank this summer to help working parents who need to pick up parcels after they finish work.
Emma Revie, The Trussell Trust’s chief executive, said: “While it’s great to see schemes in place to tackle holiday hunger, food banks and other emergency food provision cannot, and must not, be a long term solution to poverty.
“Ultimately, we should all be protected from needing a food bank’s help, no matter the time of the year.”
Fareshare Kent is a food redistribution charity in Ashford which supplies food to charities and food banks across the county. To help support children in poverty in the county, they are calling on suppliers and producers to donate items like fruit, cereal bars and wraps.
Emma White, warehouse manager at Fareshare Kent, said the two most difficult times of the year for the charity are Christmas and the summer holidays.
“There is a growing demanding to be able to feed families over the summer,” she said. We send out an average of 70 boxes a week, but this can increase up to 100 boxes when the demand is high.”