On Friday it was an inset day at JJ's secondary school. I'm not sure what most of his friends do when it's an inset day but I suspect there are very few of them that do what JJ does and say "Yes Mum! Can I come to food bank with you?".
This is probably the fourth or fifth time that JJ has chosen to spend his day off school with me serving at the Hastings food bank and what does he get out of it you might wonder? Well firstly, he gets to spend the day with his mum of course. Then I sometimes take him to the local Premier Inn for a buffet breakfast before we start work and he also gets the satisfaction of a good days work and having helped some people.
I wouldn't say that at 13 years JJ is particularly altruistic so I don't think his main reason for doing it is because he loves to help others but to be frank it doesn't really matter to me. The fact that he comes along willingly, spends around four hours there and mucks in and helps the whole time are enough. He'll be learning so much from these experiences and they are not skills he'd pick up in the classroom so I'm happy.
Hastings Food Bank
At the moment we are struggling at our Food Bank as Hastings has a really high level of poverty. 2016 figures from Enchildpoverty.org.uk suggest that after housing costs are taken into consideration 32% of all children in Hastings are living in poverty, that is a third. Then you get pockets of really deep deprivation, like Central St Leonards where the figure escalates to around 47% and that is outrageous, right?
Since late last year we have seen a massive increase in the number of people being referred to the food bank. We open for 2 hours on Tuesday and Friday afternoons and in the last three months the number of people we are feeding and offering fuel bank to has risen by around 50%. Of course it is positive that people are getting fed but there shouldn't be this level of need in one town.
And our big problem at the moment is that our donations are not matching the food we need to give out. We have a shortage right now of longlife milk, juice, meat, tinned vegetables, tinned fruit, jam, biscuits, treats, tea bags, instant mash and pasta sauce. That is more than half of the food we give out. All we really have lots of at the moment is baked beans and soup and an cannot live on those alone!
Last Friday we gave out enough food to last 3 days for 156 people and that gives you an idea of the kind of numbers coming through our door. We have had to start putting extra tables out so people can enjoy a coffee and some cake whilst they wait for us to pack their food and even they have not been enough some weeks, there have been people standing, some sat on the floor and others queueing out the door. It has been bonkers to be honest.
So if anyone reading this can manage to donate some food please do. At Hastings we'd love your donations but I suspect this is the same story across the country and thus it is worth getting in touch with your local food bank to find out what they really need.
Thanks for any help you can give. Mich x
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