Food bank faces crisis

All that was left of the tomatoes and pasta sauce last Wednesday

As the photo above shows Rye’s food bank is running out of food as demand increases in the current coronavirus pandemic and supplies become harder to obtain – and restrictions on purchases may unwittingly be making problems.

Demand for help from the food bank has been increasing steadily in recent years as the government’s Universal Credit was introduced locally, and this new crisis has made it worse with many people laid off and not yet in receipt of any support.

Employer reactions seem to have varied though. According to media reports Pontins in Camber were said to have sacked 90 per cent of their staff while Parkdean Resorts who run Camber Sands Holiday Park said they would keep staff on.

Precise comparisons of food bank demand are difficult as food bank figures are sometimes given in terms of the number of homes or families, and sometimes in terms of adults and children.

Generous Christmas donations
Tables groaned under the piles of Christmas wares for those in need

This week deliveries went to 43 homes while last Christmas (always busy because of school holidays), and with full cupboards at the food bank as the photo above shows, 31 adults and 51 children (a total of 82) were catered for – suggesting up to 30 homes.

However two years before, the Christmas figure for 2017 had been 66 individuals, and a figure of 25 families seeking help was quoted earlier in the year. So, whatever measure is used, demand is rising – but supply is now not keeping pace.

Most supermarkets have faced problems with deliveries, possibly caused by the impact of the virus on suppliers, but sometimes caused by panic buying. This in turn has led to supermarkets imposing limits on how much individual shoppers can buy – but individuals may be shopping for the food bank rather than themselves (as I have done in the past before I was “locked in” as a health risk).

John Gurney with supplies for the Foodbank – when there were supplies – but finding supplies has become harder

But if I were able to shop now, would I be told “no, you can’t have four packs of this, that and the other”. I think I might.

Chris Emson says they are struggling to source food, but she also says “Thank you to everyone who is putting donations in the baskets and those sending cash”. However at the end of the day she needs supplies – both of unused heavy duty strong carrier bags to deliver the supplies to homes, but particularly – at the moment apparently – of basics like tomatoes and potatoes (normally tins as they cannot store fresh foods).

They are buying for many families – not just one – and many supermarkets have already set aside special arrangements for NHS staff and the elderly to ensure they get supplies. But possibly the supermarkets also need to look more carefully at their arrangements and allocations – especially for food banks.

Food bank organiser Chris Emson says the high demand this week emptied their stocks, but it is likely the same demand will be there next Wednesday – and the Wednesday after – from over 40 homes.

Chris Emson said Jempson’s have been very helpful, but even they could not get certain items. However this does not mean that Jempson’s – and indeed all supermarkets – do not need to look more carefully at the arrangements for purchasing food for food banks, as the food is going to people who can not even afford to shop – similar problems have been reported in Hastings and Bexhill. and elsewhere around the country.

The Jempson Foundation has launched an appeal to raise funds for the food bank.

Image Credits: Chris Emson , Mags Ivatts , Kenneth Bird .


  1. Donations can be made directly to the Rye Branch of Bexhill Food Bank at Barclays sort code 20-54-25 account number 83501116


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