A ‘DISTRESSING’ rise in the number of pensioners being forced to use Littlehampton’s Food Bank has been revealed this week.
Hazel Cooper, who runs the town’s facility at the Baptist Church, in Fitzalan Road, has said since the food bank opened 18 months ago, more and more elderly people have turned to it for vital support.
Ms Cooper said she had been ‘shocked’ by the level of deprivation some of the area’s elderly were forced to contend with on a daily basis.
Speaking to the Gazette on Friday, she said: “I have had people that have shocked me, definitely.
“Talking about our elderly clients, the level of poverty some face has been quite shocking and distressing.”
Ms Cooper unveiled her concerns in an effort to try to raise awareness of the food bank and the support services the facility and its partner agencies can offer to needy residents.
She claimed more and more pensioners were becoming reliant on the Trussell Trust-run site due to a change in how people apply for their pensions and a lack of awareness about the new procedures in applying.
She added because of this some pensioners were left strapped for cash and unable to afford basic necessities like food.
“We’ve had to step in with a few people and help them apply for their pensions,” she said.
However, in spite of this, Ms Cooper has highlighted that there have been positives from the rise in demand, with stronger links forged between the food bank and partners at the town’s Citizens Advice Bureau and the Wickboure Centre, in Wick.
“It has been rewarding because we have been working with our partner agencies to help these people,” she said. “We have been able to help these people with not only food but with gas and electric, too.”
The Littlehampton Food Bank has helped thousands of people since it opened, Ms Cooper claimed.
She explained the food bank’s main clients were needy families ‘in crisis’, predominantly from the River Ward area.
However, she added the food bank does also help people from across Rustington, East Preston, Angmering and Arundel and Wick.
“There’s still a great demand in Littlehampton,” she said. “People are still in crisis.”
The reasons for people approaching the bank varied, according to Ms Cooper.
“It can be something as simple as the car breaking down or people are thrown a curve ball and things are just very tight that month.”
Despite the rise in demand, Ms Cooper admitted some people could be slipping through the cracks because they still were not aware of the service.
She is now urging people to come forward and speak to staff and volunteers.
For details, visit the bank between 1pm and 3pm on Tuesday and Friday, or call 07925 862289.
Ms Cooper is also appealing to the public for more donations.
This could include tinned food and goods.
However, she said the bank desperately needed more toiletries to give to people.
The facility is part of a network of more than 400 banks nationwide run by the Trussell Trust.
It can provide a three-day supply of emergency food and supplies to needy clients.