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Demand for Darlington food bank doubles during summer holidays
8:00am Monday 26th August 2013 in News
[SF] The number of people using a Darlington food bank has doubled since the start of the school summer holidays. Chloe Cornish spoke to volunteers and service users at the FoodStore network in Darlington [SF ENDS]
LISA MARSH, who manages the food bank, in Whessoe Road, explained: “We’re at double at the moment and I’m expecting that to increase. We’re giving out 100 bags per week.”
Each bag contains a week’s worth of food supplies.
Mrs Marsh explained that the rise in need for families with children comes from losing one free school meal per day, as well as subsidised breakfasts offered at many schools.
Towards the end of the school holidays, families are forced to spend money on new uniforms and school shoes.
“It becomes a choice of food or clothes,” said Mrs Marsh.
Families are not the only group benefitting from the food bank.
Karen Scott, 48, from Darlington, has been using the food bank for over a year.
Her health issues prevent her from working – she’s had cancer twice, along with suffering from depression.
In and out of hospital, she eventually ran out of money to feed herself.
Having previously volunteered at soup kitchens in London, she thought the food bank might be similar and was initially unwilling to visit.
Speaking to The Northern Echo, she said: “It’s so different here. Nobody judges you.”
“I didn’t stop crying all the time,” said Mrs Scott, describing the emotional support she received from volunteers. “They’ve been brilliant.”
Mrs Marsh has seen Karen’s condition improve since she started coming to the food bank, and says that stories like hers ‘keep you going’.
She said: “Most of the people who come in are at their lowest point in life, to have to go somewhere and say, ‘I can’t feed myself’.
“You never become immune to it, never get used to the stories. People come in who’ve had good jobs, and suddenly a crisis happens.”
More than 1,000 individuals are using the Darlington FoodStore Network and donations are always welcome.
July saw volunteers from King’s Church, St Mary’s Community Centre and the Clifton Community Association at St Columba’s, hand out 450 food parcels.
Darlington residents have been nourishing the food bank, with customers and staff at Asda, in Whinfield Way, donating 500 food items and more than £130 at an event this week organised by the store’s community team.
Supermarket Aldi donates fruit, and at one point the food banks received 3,000 incorrectly labelled Snickers bars that retailers could not sell, as well as thousands of Pudsey Bear biscuits left over from Children In Need.
The bags may sometimes have quirky contents, but Lisa says they are more than a bag of food, adding: “This is about dignity and hope.”
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