Feeding families in a time of crisis

Tesco Extra community champion Gemma Young and customer services manager Steve Davies with Paul Comber at the store's collection point

Tesco Extra community champion Gemma Young and customer services manager Steve Davies with Paul Comber at the store's collection point

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PEOPLE in crisis find a parcel of free food can make all the difference when they need help.

Volunteers at Shoreham Foodbank collect, organise and distribute packages to ensure families are fed.

Since it launched in December 2013, as part of the Trussell Trust food bank network, Shoreham Foodbank has given out seven-and-a-half tons of food to 800 adults and 450 children in Shoreham, Southwick and Fishersgate.

Two-thirds of the clients are young families, with a few single young people and the occasional older person.

Project leader Paul Comber said: “Around 90 per cent are one-off voucher users. They will come, get over the crisis and we help them through.

“We have a small clutch who have been to us a few times. We have tons of food and we won’t turn anyone away but there is a limit, which is five vouchers in six months.”

Cereals are stacking up at the distrubition centre

Cereals are stacking up at the distrubition centre

The majority of the food comes from Tesco Extra at the Holmbush Shopping Centre in Shoreham, where there is an information board and collection box.

Mr Comber explained: “Customers there are the most generous to us. People just drop things in the wire cage. It is a tremendously successful collection point.

“The Tesco staff are superb, too. Their relationship with us is brilliant.”

The customer services team keeps an eye on what has been donated and will use a refund and replace system to exchange goods for items they know the food bank would prefer.

We heard through a school, for example, that one mum came back and said thank you, as it meant she could buy her daughter the shoes she needed rather than spend her last money on food

Project leader Paul Comber

Donations are collected once a week and taken to the warehouse, at Venture Blue in Dolphin Way, Shoreham.

Mr Comber explained: “Venture Blue has generously given us shelving in their warehouse. They are members of the church and they wanted to do something to help. The company has provided shelving for the food bank to hold about one-and-a-half tons of food.”

Warehouse team leader Sarah Measor organises dating and sorting. Every item is checked over and organised into labelled crates, ready for transfer to the distribution centre.

Cereals seem to be a popular item to donate, so the food bank has started offering spare boxes to school breakfast clubs.

Crates of food at the distribution centre, ready to go out to clients

Crates of food at the distribution centre, ready to go out to clients

“We can only keep so much food,” Mr Comber pointed out. “Sometimes it backs up and can begin to go out of date. We then give it to the Real Junk Food Project in Brighton, which turns food waste into healthy meals for the community.”

The distribution centre is at the St John Ambulance building, off Ham Road, Shoreham, which is open on Fridays from 4pm to 6pm for voucher holders.

Clients are greeted at a reception desk, then take their voucher to one of three befrienders. Refreshments are served while their parcel is packed according to the allocation lists, with extra treats and toiletries when available.

Mr Comber said: “It is enough food to get them over a crisis. It is for crisis, we do not advocate dependency.

“We heard through a school, for example, that one mum came back and said thank you, as it meant she could buy her daughter the shoes she needed rather than spend her last money on food.”

The red food vouchers are held by 41 agencies, such as GP surgeries, children and family centres, the Citizen’s Advice Bureau and schools. Each has a poster explaining the vouchers are available to people in need and can be exchanged for three days’ worth of emergency food.

Project leader Paul Comber at the warehouse in Dolphin Way, Shoreham

Project leader Paul Comber at the warehouse in Dolphin Way, Shoreham

Trussell Trust provides food allocation forms, which indicate quantities for each parcel, equating to about £25 worth for one person, up to £48 worth for a family. Menu cards are also given out, so people have ideas on how to use the food they are given.

Mr Comber attends Church of Christ the King, which meets at Shoreham Academy on Sunday mornings, but the food bank team is a collaboration involving all churches in the area.

Trussell Trust is putting in place a new More Than Food system, so Shoreham Foodbank is hoping to introduce financial and benefit advice through Christians Against Poverty.

Volunteers are needed for a three-day collection in Tesco Extra at the Holmbush Shopping Centre, Shoreham, from July 2 to 4. There a three shifts each day, from 9am to midday, midday to 3pm, 3pm to 5pm. Email info@shoreham.foodbank.org.uk or telephone 07908 143313 to volunteer.

A team of helpers is needed for the new Fishersgate distribution centre, which will operate on Monday mornings from the former Eastbrook Primary Academy site in Gardner Road. There are already six people in place and a further six are needed, with a few to it getting up and running in July.