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Published: 00:01, 23 December 2015
A foodbank was forced to turn away desperate familes after it ran out of food following a Christmas surge in demand.
A surge of people visited the Salvation Army branch of the Medway Foodbank in Chatham High Street on Friday.
The volunteers would normally see six to 10 people through the door, and were expecting a few more in the run up to Christmas, so doubled their supplies.
But 33 people turned up, including some very large families, and after 20 they had nothing left to give out.
Project manager Ian Childs said: “There is only so much storage space. We can’t keep an infinite amount of food in each of our branches.
"It breaks my heart seeing families struggle to provide the Christmas people, especially children, might want or expect" - Project manager Ian Childs
“Staff were having to tell people to go to St Mark’s in Gillingham on Saturday morning instead. A few of the people served said they had been having problems with their benefit payments.
“While benefit issues causing people to rely on Foodbanks is falling, it still accounts of a third of the people we help. Most visit us because they are struggling with debt or low incomes.”
The Medway Messenger has supported the Medway Foodbank for this year’s Christmas Appeal.
At the moment the three-day food parcels for people in crisis, many of which go to children, also include some little extras by way of festive food and treats for Christmas.
Mr Childs said: “We had the biggest and most successful Christmas Tesco store collection this year and many people said they helped because of what they had read about us in the Medway Messenger.
“It amazed me, after three Christmases doing this, how many people still didn’t know about us until this year.
“People are really feeling the pinch this time of year, trying to extend what resources they have.
"But the most important thing is for families to be secure and warm, and we’re trying to help out with the rest and put the cherry on top of the Christmas cake.
“It breaks my heart seeing families struggle to provide the Christmas people, especially children, might want or expect.
“To be able to give people things like chocolates and crackers, really warms my heart.”
The Foodbank also needs funds to be able to keep going.
The team is aiming to set up a group called Medway Foodbank’s 500 Friends, willing to donate £1 a week.
Who can access the Foodbank?
To receive parcels from the Medway Foodbank people must have vouchers.
These are acquired through one of around 130 agencies throughout the towns, from the Citizens Advice Bureau to Medway Council, doctors and schools.
People have to prove their identify, the number of children they claim to have, and the circumstances of their crisis.
Mr Childs said: “Not every foodbank in the country operates like this, but we believe we owe it to our donors to ensure their contributions are going to those in the greatest need.
“Once we have people on our system, they must still go through the checks, but it is not such an onerous process.”
More by this authorLizzie Massey