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We volunteered at Faversham Food Bank to find out why Christmas can be a struggle for some families

Have you ever gone hungry so your child could eat, or chosen heating over putting a meal on the table?

With Christmas being a time where no expense is spared, these scenarios are hard to imagine for most of us. Reporter Megan Carr volunteered at a Kent food bank to learn more about the harsh realities some families face.

Beth Munn speaking about Christmas at the food bank

I am very fortunate that my family and I have never needed support from a foodbank, but that doesn't mean I don't understand their significance.

I visited Faversham Food Bank at the Gospel Mission Hall to find out what Christmas is like for families and volunteers.

I didn't know what to expect, but I was greeted by Beth Munn, chairman of trustees, who welcomed me with open arms.

She explained that team members are not only helping at the site twice a week but also using their free time to collect donations and go that extra mile for those in need.

Megan Carr helping at Faversham Foodbank
Megan Carr helping at Faversham Foodbank

After learning a bit about the work and effort put in by the food bank's 70 volunteers, I thought it was time I helped out, so I got stuck in.

While there, I couldn't work with the clients directly, but I was able to help out in the busy 'packing station'.

The church lets the food bank use an upstairs area to store some of their food and pack orders.

Shelves were full of good quality dry food. There were even multiple toiletry options, as well as pet food.

I was asked to help the lovely Steve, Sue and Ann, all 57, and Dave, 67, packing the orders from the shopping forms.

The forms vary depending if they're for one-person, families of four or bigger households.

Volunteers Sue, Ann and Dave having fun
Volunteers Sue, Ann and Dave having fun

Clients tick the supplies they need on the form for the number of people they live with so the packers know what items to include in the shopping bags.

For an hour or so I was non-stop packing, putting tinned veg, beans, crisps and special Christmas treats into the bags.

It was hard, constant, fast-paced work, and I was exhausted, but as I worked my heart broke every time I packed a bottle of shower gel, sanitary products, toilet paper, soap, nappies and toothbrushes into bags.

No one should have to use a food bank to live a healthy hygienic life. It humbled me greatly.

Beth, a 28-year-old from Sittingbourne explained why these things are needed and why the winter months are always the hardest.

Beth Munn, chair of trustees at Faversham Foodbank
Beth Munn, chair of trustees at Faversham Foodbank

She said: "People attend the food bank because there may have been an issue with zero contract hours, or there has been an extra bill that month like a car break down or a sick pet."

Discovering that all these little factors could put people into difficult financial situation's really opened my eyes.

I had no idea how many people are just one major, unplanned, payment away from not being able to eat.

Applications to the food bank increased by almost 35% this year compared with 2020, when demand went up by the same amount from the previous year.

Many parents go hungry to feed their children and during the colder months, a decision is often made between food and heating, making the festive season a gloomy one for some.

Faversham Foodbank has 70 volunteers
Faversham Foodbank has 70 volunteers

However, Beth and the team still want people to have their share of Christmas cheer.

She said: "One of the things that we're passionate about is making sure people still get that extra Christmas touch.

"We try and provide those in need with a basic Christmas meal, treats and gifts.

"We can only do it because of the incredible donations given to us by the shops and people of Faversham."

I spoke to one mum using the service, who wished to remain anonymous, about why the volunteers are worth their weight in gold.

She said: "They're very helpful and the advice you can get for paying bills is brilliant. I was really worried about being judged.

"But once I came in I was given a cup of tea, a biscuit, and had someone to talk to. They get you help."

So, going along to the food bank has opened my eyes to what a comfortable life I do lead.

It made me want to give more to those who aren't as lucky as I am this Christmas.

My family and I will most definitely be making more donations to the food bank in the future.

If you need support or wish to contact Faversham Food Bank click here.

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