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Nourish Community Foodbank, which serves Tunbridge Wells and the Weald, speaks of soaring demand amid Coronavirus

The Weald and Tunbridge Wells are seen as two of the most affluent areas in Kent, but a soaring number of local families face weeks of being unable to afford food, thanks to the pandemic and schools shutting up for summer.

Nourish Community Foodbank has revealed demand remains double that of pre-covid times, with currently 200 weekly household referrals, and the charity stepping up to spend thousands on food, as need outstrips supply.

Volunteers at Nourish Community Foodbank Picture: Nourish Community Foodbank(39883685)
Volunteers at Nourish Community Foodbank Picture: Nourish Community Foodbank(39883685)

Since April, the foodbank, which helps people in Tunbridge Wells and areas in the Weald, have paid between £30,000 and £40,000 on food for households.

Dawn Stanford, operations manager, said: "I can't remember the last time we purchased food other than if we were low on a particular item, such as tinned tomatoes.

"At the moment we are purchasing weekly cages of food.

"We are getting about two tonnes of donations a week but we are giving out about four tonnes. We have accessed more funding, I wouldn't say it's easy all of the time, but as long as we can do it, we will."

Villages such as Goudhurst are praised for their idyllic nature, and property prices in the area are some of the highest in the county, with the average Tunbridge Wells dwelling priced at £476,234, according to Zoopla.

Dawn Stanford, operations manager at Nourish Community Foodbank
Dawn Stanford, operations manager at Nourish Community Foodbank

However, in Tunbridge Wells, around 22 per cent of children are living in property, according to figures released by the campaign group End Child Proverty last year.

Miss Stanford said: "Tunbridge Wells is a wealthy area but with any town there are pockets of deprivation."

The charity has launched it's annual Hidden Holiday Hunger campaign, which aims to ensure all children can receive basic food items and the odd treat during the holidays.

This is even more important now, as many families have been "financially stretched" because of the pandemic and the cost of children being at home more.

Before coronavirus, the charity was handing out between 80 and a hundred parcels a week but at the peak of the virus, weekly household referrals rose to 260.

The foodbank gets about two tonnes of food donated a week, but is giving out double that Picture: Nourish Community Foodbank
The foodbank gets about two tonnes of food donated a week, but is giving out double that Picture: Nourish Community Foodbank

Demand climbed again as the holidays began, to 200 weekly referrals. A jump is normally expected when the holiday starts, Miss Stanford said.

The latest available figures show the charity fed 7,014 people in 2018/2019.

Miss Stanford said: "This seems to be the new normal. I have got referrals lasting for four to six weeks.

'This seems to be the new normal...'

"During the holidays there are extra child care costs and normal working families are under extra pressure. This year, people have used up holiday pay, they might not have a job, or be on furlough and so not receiving full pay. It's a massive worry for people, it's like a six month school holiday."

To find out how you can get involved in the Hidden Holiday Hunger Campaign, click here.

Read more: All the latest news from the Weald

Read more: All the latest news from Tunbridge Wells

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