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Trussell Trust food bank warehouse in Medway looking for new premises after huge rise in demand

A food bank is searching for a new warehouse as demand for its services has skyrocketed.

The facility, run by the Medway Trussell Trust, has seen the number of people relying on its handouts increase by 39% between January to December 2018 and January to December 2019.

Pictured left to right: Lorraine Schulze, Cllr Joanne Howcroft-Scott and Cllr Siju Adeoye
Pictured left to right: Lorraine Schulze, Cllr Joanne Howcroft-Scott and Cllr Siju Adeoye

Lorranie Schulze, project manager for Medway's network of eight food banks, believes the rising demand is due in part to the five-week wait for Universal Credit.

She said: "I've seen people who are struggling across the year because they are trying to prioritise and keep a roof over their heads, paying the bills, but then not being able to eat.

One of the common misconceptions the food bank manager often finds is that people relying on food bank parcels are out of work.

She said: "We actually see a fair percentage of our clients working, but they're either on zero hour contracts, or they're very low wages, and then you only have to have one disaster - somebody to get very ill - and you're in trouble."

Currently, food travelling to the eight food banks in the Towns is stored at a warehouse on the Medway City Estate, but space is rapidly running low.

The food bank is outgrowing the small warehouse due to increasing demand
The food bank is outgrowing the small warehouse due to increasing demand

Lorraine added: "The last thing we want to do is to get a bigger warehouse premises; our plan would be to downsize to have less food bank centres in Medway, but this is the situation."

Cllr Joanne Howcroft-Scott (Lab) recently donated £500 of her ward funds to help with the running costs accrued making sure food is being transported to food bank centres across the area.

On a visit to the warehouse, she said: "We donated to help with those costs; things like the electricity and the lease.

"As generous as the people of Medway are, which is great because we're outgrowing facilities here, there is still the underlying costs of keeping the service going."

Cllr Siju Adeoye (Lab), who visited alongside Cllr Howcroft-Scott, added: "In as much as you're doing a great job, it's shameful that this day and age, in 2020, you are expanding and thinking about how to cover your overhead costs.

"It is a shame."

More than 150 volunteers work across the eight food bank centres in Medway
More than 150 volunteers work across the eight food bank centres in Medway

In addition to looking at a larger premises for storage, the food bank is also looking to buy a tail lift van to make it easier to transport two tonnes of food a week to the various Medway centres.

The food bank is part of the Trussell Trust network, which supports more than 1,200 food bank centres across the UK.

Last November the trust warned of an increasing reliance on food banks by families in the UK.

Trussell Trust director of policy and research, Garry Lemon, said: "We know the majority of people referred to food banks are meant to be anchored to poverty by the benefits system, but what we're finding when we speak to them is because of delays, the money coming through isn't enough to make ends meet."

It comes as Medway food bank looks to introduce electricity vouchers to help impoverished families put food on the table.

The Fuel Bank would provide top-up energy coupons for cooking, heating, and lighting, but to begin the service it would require external funding.

The warehouse stores all kinds of food ready to give to people with vouchers
The warehouse stores all kinds of food ready to give to people with vouchers

Some areas in Kent resorted to running early evening food banks in the summer holidays last year to help struggling working families feed their children.

Read more: All the latest news from Medway


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