Food bank dreams

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Chris Emson briefing the volunteers on Wednesday morning

Demand at Rye Food Bank has settled for the past few weeks, with numbers remaining at a constant level of about 25 food parcels per week which provides for 85 people – and more predictable demand has allowed us to concentrate more and more on providing other help so that people do not need to resort to a food bank.

There is such a mixture of people who visit Rye Food Bank that it is not possible to say there is one particular cause of difficulty, and the levels of difficulty vary widely, ranging from destitution to not being able to afford bills for heating – and many are surprised to learn there are homeless people in Rye.

Poverty links and causes

The diagram suggests what a person in poverty is likely to experience. But though these experiences may be the result of poverty, some of them may be its cause. For example, poor health can be the result of poverty, or a cause of it.

Rye Food Bank is committed to providing relief to people in our community who are in real need. Bob Harper co-manages Rye Food Bank with Chris Emson. Now that the food bank is working well I asked him what his hopes and dreams are for the future.

“The three key requirements to run a food bank are in place”, he said. “That’s a really good volunteer base, a highly supportive community, and effective ways of controlling the operation – from handling donations and ordering stock through to managing deliveries and everything in between. And working together we’ve become pretty good at all the mechanical aspects of running the food bank, and can be responsive to client needs.”

Bob went on the explain that community support includes provision of premises by the Rye Methodist and Baptist churches, a willing and dedicated volunteer team – the food bank is a 100% volunteer run operation – an excellent relationship with suppliers, and a wonderful level of generosity from people in the town and surrounding district who donate food and finance faithfully. “Without these things, we’d be nowhere!” he added.

Needing easier ways to get help

I asked Bob about the future: “You know, we take pride in what we do, but we’re excited about moving on too” he said. “It’s truly shocking to see how quickly and severely adverse circumstances can impact people’s lives. And its not enough to signpost people to other agencies for help. When they’re at their lowest its just too difficult. They need an easier way to get help.”

Early in April we setup a Zoom link to HARC, the Hastings Advice and Representation Centre, who give benefits advice. “I know the name’s a bit of a mouthful”, Bob laughed, “but HARC is a fantastic organisation. We can simply introduce clients to the advisor and she’s away, providing active help that really makes a difference; and almost all clients walk away from the talk with smiles on their faces.

“Of course we respond to crises with food supplies, its the primary reason for having a food bank and we encourage people in difficulty to come in. But what we really love to see is people who came in crisis no longer needing help because their circumstances have changed for the better.”

Are there plans for the advice centre to develop? “Oh yes,” Bob agreed. “We want to see connections with advisors on a range of issues, certainly including housing, debt management, family support and relationship issues. Its just a case of replicating what we do with HARC, and its a brilliantly efficient way of providing help.

“And whilst most clients are happy to speak with advisors on their own, if they prefer we can sit in and walk with them through the issues. You know, there’s a world of difference between a signpost and having someone walking with you.”

Big changes, and I wondered whether the food bank dreams any more dreams? “Well, we do really,” Bob agreed. “The food bank was started by local churches that took the teaching of the Bible seriously, and again and again it emphasises the requirement to feed the hungry, to show generosity to the poor, and not to exclude people because of their circumstances or race or religion any other factor. We just want to DO these things and do them well.

“You know, Chris and I think that we use the word “community” too lightly. If you find yourself in destitution or extreme poverty you’re going to feel marginalised, quite possibly desperate and frightened, and very, very alone. You’re not likely to feel part of the community, and lack of funds make it even less likely.

“The word “community” speaks of welcome, inclusion, generosity, friendship, feeling at “home” and amongst “family”. Everyone needs those things, and we want to be proactive in providing them.” “How?” I asked. “I’m afraid that’s for another time,” he smiled, and rushed away to receive a delivery.

Contact details for Rye Food Bank

Phone: 07526 349847 or email: ryefoodbank@gmail.com.

We are open at the Baptist hall, behind the church in Cinque Ports Street in Rye on Wednesdays from 9am for donations and the food bank is open from 1pm until 3pm. The Rye Food Bank phone number is not manned all the time, but you can leave a message and we will respond. Email is better and this is monitored several times during the day and in the evening.

Donations make a big difference

Monetary donations can be sent to the Bexhill Food Bank Rye Branch at Barclays Bank, sort code 20-54-25, account number 83501116, through the Jempson Foundation or cheques to Rye Food Bank c/o 24 North Salts, Rye. If you donate via the Jempson Foundation and are a taxpayer, gift aid can be applied, thereby increasing the value of the donation by 25% at no cost to the donor.  If you make a bank transfer please do send us a message (via ryefoodbank@gmail.com) so we know who it is from and can send a receipt, if required.

If you need help from Rye Food Bank, contact Rother District Citizens Advice (CAB) on 01424 215055; email: help@rotherdistrictcab.org.uk, or the Hastings Advice &  Representation Centre (HARC) on 0333 344 0681; email: info@harcuk.com.

Image Credits: Mags Ivatts .

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