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Biting the hand that feeds - food bank volunteers respond to loss of Bromley Council subsidy

PUBLISHED: 15:58 09 January 2014 | UPDATED: 15:58 09 January 2014

The food bank at Bromley United Reformed Church (l-r) Sue Hendrick, Jean Rogers, Sheila Parr, Sue Tibble, Magaret Elves and Jackie Barter

The food bank at Bromley United Reformed Church (l-r) Sue Hendrick, Jean Rogers, Sheila Parr, Sue Tibble, Magaret Elves and Jackie Barter

Archant

While food poverty in the UK is said to be on the rise, Bromley Borough Food Bank has been hit by an £8,500 yearly rent bill for its St Paul's Cray distribution centre.

Up to 100 people a week visit the food bank’s four centres founded by Oak Community Church.

Project manager Mary Beckingham said demand has risen due to benefit cuts.

“Then there are people on zero-hour contracts who are not in regular employment,” she said.

“They are employed over Christmas in the shops but they won’t get the hours in a couple of weeks time and they can’t claim benefits because they are technically employed.”

Mrs Beckingham also said that some visitors have difficulty finding work, sometimes with two part-time jobs on a minimum wage which is “too low”.

The food banks are run by volunteers and rely on donations from the public and businesses. It is the church that will be paying the rent the council is now demanding.

“It will be the people who donate a large amount of the food who are going to pick up the bill,” Mrs Beckingham said.

Food banks operate using a voucher system and organisations such as the council distribute them to those in need.

They can then be exchanged at the food banks. For every person included on the voucher, three days of non-perishable and nutritious food will be given, as well as extras such as deodorant and shampoo so people can look presentable at job interviews.

Cllr Graham Arthur, Bromley’s executive councillor for resources, said: “We have supported the Food Bank from the very beginning and remain supportive of the aims of this charity.

“Now we are asking for rent to be paid in a similar way as any other charity or business who would occupy these type of premises.”

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