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Medway Trussell Trust food bank saw 200% increase in demand during lockdown


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A food poverty charity has been forced to resort to using precious funds to buy groceries, the first time the manager has ever had to do so.

Lorraine Schulze, project manager for Medway 's network of eight Trussell Trust food banks, was faced with a surge in need as families found themselves in a difficult financial position due to the coronavirus pandemic .

The charity has had to spend thousands on food just to reach everyone in need
The charity has had to spend thousands on food just to reach everyone in need

In the past the charity have been able to rely primarily on donations from businesses and supermarkets, but in the current climate that has not been enough to meet demand.

The food bank manager said: "We've been spending approximately £700 a week on food.

"Prior to Covid we didn't spend any money, not one single penny - I've been here for two years and we've never spent money on food.

"What I've been doing is grabbing every single emergency grant available and using that."

April saw a staggering 204% increase in people using the service compared to the same period in 2019.

Organisations across the authority have been helping the food bank with deliveries
Organisations across the authority have been helping the food bank with deliveries

Mrs Schulze and her volunteers supported 1,503 people in that time, compared to 494 in April 2019.

The following months May and June saw 93% and 58% increases respectively.

Although it looks as if the surge is stabilising, the charity had already been dealing with a steadily growing demand in the past two years.

Between 2018 and 2019 the food bank noticed a sizeable increase , thought to be a result of the redesigned benefits system.

Mrs Schuzle said: "We think a lot of that was down to the Universal Credit system and five week wait which is messing people up, and is still a concern to us."

Lorraine Schulze runs the Trussell Trust Medway food bank
Lorraine Schulze runs the Trussell Trust Medway food bank

The nationwide charity has been particularly critical of the system in recent years, which they claim has directly resulted in a greater need for food banks.

Another concern for the Medway food bank is whether they will see yet another increase when the Chancellor's Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme ends in October .

Under the scheme, which was extended in May, furloughed workers receive 80% of their current salary, up to £2,500.

Mrs Schulze said: "We're now wondering whether that end of furlough in October is going to kick another load of people over the line."

The food bank premises across the network were all closed when the nation went into lockdown in March.

A volunteer working at the Medway food bank warehouse
A volunteer working at the Medway food bank warehouse

Since then the volunteers have been hard at work delivering food to those most in need throughout the area.

Currently the food bank is making around 70 deliveries a week.

Organisations such as Citizen's Advice Medway and mhs homes have also helped with the involved task of delivering packages over the past six months.

Medway Council will also be helping the food charity out with their supermarket collections over the next couple of weeks.

Mrs Schulze said the support has been a shining beacon of positivity through such difficult times.

She said: "Out of all of the misery and difficulty, watching the community come together has been fantastic - I'm really impressed with the way people have rallied around."

Read more: All the latest news from Medway

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