In which Vicki Sigston looks at the increased service that food banks in Medway are needing to provide..
Hello and Happy New Year.
If you can cast your minds back all the way to the last decade you may have a faint recollection of quite a lot happening in the world of UK politics as we approached Christmas. All culminating in a general election where the Conservatives pushed aside all other parties to win a comfortable majority in the Commons.
As you may have guessed from previous posts I have written for this esteemed website the Conservatives, particularly our local councillors, are not my favourite people. I am often appalled by their seeming lack of care for anyone but the most well off in society and struggle to understand where their popularity comes from in my hometowns of Medway, where we have ever increasing levels of poverty.
One thing that has been talked about lots in the media in recent months is the increase in the use of food banks – once a vital but rarely used form of support, now it is believed that as many as one in fifty households used food banks in 2018 – 2019 with that number rising all the time.
Food banks provide essential support to families who are struggling to afford the basics in life. They offer food, toiletries and other essentials often alongside support with benefit claiming, healthy eating and housing needs.
The use of food banks has gone up, perhaps because the cost of living has increased so dramatically in our country in recent years, without the raises in income needed for people to keep their heads above water. While it is true that the majority of people accessing help through food banks are people who are struggling or unable to find work, an ever growing number of parcels are going to families where at least one member of the household works. As a society we are struggling with rising bills and food prices, with many people struggling to save any money for unexpected costs like illness, heating bill increases or delays in benefit payments.
The roll out of Universal Credit has also been a factor in higher food bank use. Our Conservative Government promised this new system would make claiming and receiving help easier, but in truth the introduction of this new system has led to families waiting weeks for applications to be processed and leaving them in more financial trouble than ever.
When Luton Infant and Nursery School in Chatham realised that some of their students were going hungry and that families were struggling on the run up to Christmas they opened their own foodbank to try and get donations for those in need. Tracey Crouch, our now newly re-elected MP said at the time:
“I think what the school is doing is incredibly generous. There are many organisations around Medway supporting those in poverty, but it’s for us in central government to make sure that nobody finds themselves in this level of poverty in the future.”
I wonder whether Tracey would like to let us know what those plans are now that they are back in the driving seat? What are our local councillors doing to ensure that by Christmas 2020, local children in Medway will all have enough food on the table?
As always I am keen to look at what we can do for those people around us who need support. Those families where children are not getting enough to eat. Those families where two parents are working and they still struggle to have enough money to both heat their homes and feed their families.
I want to say to anyone reading this who is struggling: Although our government, local and national does not seem to be prioritising those most in need, there are people and organisations around you who want to help. If you are in Medway I have compiled a list of food banks and other organisations where you can access support – I’m sure this is not exhaustive and if you know of any I have missed please do mention them in the comments below this article.
If you are struggling, please reach out, ask for help, you are not alone.
If you know someone who is struggling, or suspect they are, I say the same to you – reach out – perhaps you know someone who could do with using some of these organisations I have listed, offer to help, offer to attend with them, offer to help with form filling. Perhaps if you are cooking, chuck an extra batch in and share with a family you know will appreciate it. It’s the little things that can make a huge difference.
While our government continue to concentrate on congratulating themselves on their general election win and “Brexit” fiasco, let’s turn our attention to our communities, our neighbours and our friends. We are in this together.
Medway Food Bank – Can provide 3 days’ nutritionally balanced emergency food and support to local people who are referred in crisis. They are part of a nationwide network of food banks, supported by The Trussell Trust, working to combat poverty and hunger across the UK.
St Justus church, Fairway, Rochester. Tuesday 10:30 – 12:30
Salvation Army, Church St, Chatham. Monday and Friday 10:30 – 13:00
Twydall Evangelical Church, Goudhurst Rd. Tuesday 12:00 – 14:30 & Friday 10:30 – 13:00
Chatham Evangelical Church, Ordnance Street. Wednesday 10:30 – 15:45
The Net Community Café, Silverweed Rd, Walderslade. Thursday 9:30 – 12:00
St Mark’s Church, Canterbury St, Gillingham. Thursday 13:00 – 15:00 & Saturday 10:00 – 12:00
Peninsular Methodist Church, Allhallows Rd. Thursday 10:00 – 12:00
St Nicholas Church, High St, Strood. Tuesday 11:30 – 14:30 & Friday 12:00 – 14:00
01634 757057 or email email@example.com.
Salvation Army, Church St, Chatham – Foodbank Monday and Friday morning. Jobclub Monday 10 – 12. Tuesday evening meal for the homeless. Monday and Friday morning playgroup. firstname.lastname@example.org or 01634 843 689.
Baby Basics Kent – Provides much needed essentials and equipment to mothers and families who are unable to provide these items for themselves. They can offer baby starter packs which include a Moses basket packed full of supplies including nappies, wipes, maternity pads, bathing toiletries for baby & mum, blankets, towels, newborn clothing & a small cuddly toy. 07491 656239 or email@example.com.
All Saint’s Community Project at Magpie Centre, Chatham – Advisors can help with benefit advice and assist with form-filling. Open for the issue of Foodbank Vouchers from Monday to Friday 10am to 1pm. Practical Crisis Relief, including emergency help with gas and electricity. The advisors at the Magpie Centre are available on Mondays and Fridays 10am to 1pm. 01634 845419 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
MRS Community Hub’s Second Chance Charity – Support people in crisis with housing, furniture, food, support, grants, understanding benefits, advocacy with landlords and PIP meetings, and lots more besides.T hey also a food share program at the moment, providing fresh food on a weekly basis to families in need for small donations. 01634 408840 or email@example.com.
Gillingham Street Angels – Offers a service to local homeless community by providing food, drink and essentials such as toiletries clothing and bedding.
Vicki Sigston is an Antenatal Practitioner and Breastfeeding Counsellor currently living in Medway. She and her husband have 2 boys that they home educate with support from Medway’s incredible home ed community. You can follow her work life on Facebook and Instagram.
Vicki has a website called Mum of 2 Boys that she likes to post (hopefully) useful bits and pieces on too. She also suffers with a chronic condition called Endometriosis and she shares her journey with all of that here.