Littlehampton Larder feeds hungry when the cupboard is bare

EMERGENCY food parcels are being packed up to help families and individuals struggling on the breadline in the Littlehampton area.

A new crisis service, the Littlehampton Larder, has swung into action after numerous organisations were contacted by people desperately short of money for food.

Unemployment and relationship breakdowns are just a couple of the wide-ranging reasons for people needing the emergency support. Delays in benefit payments and the economic downturn are also a major factor. Young, old, and families, all have requested assistance.

Parcels will be exchanged for a voucher issued by agencies who will interview those seeking help.

Rosie Parfitt, community resources officer for Littlehampton Town Council, one of the organisations backing the scheme, said: "We're all working together to bring the community food when it's needed. Hopefully, our community won't need this forever more, but at the moment, there is a need."

Harvest gifts

The Larder has been set up in a room provided by Littlehampton Baptist Church, and all the churches in the town are backing the initiative, each appointing a "champion" to co-ordinate collections of food. Some harvest services have been used to accept food for the scheme.

Littlehampton Academy students and staff have also been making donations and the Larder's shelves — funded by Littlehampton Rotary Club — are filling up in readiness for more parcels to be boxed up and distributed.

Littlehampton Lions' Club, homeless charity HOMElink and the Black and Minority Ethnic Communities (BMEC) group are also backing the Larder, together with other voluntary groups, agencies, businesses and individuals.

Amina Chitembo, chief executive of BMEC, which is administering the scheme, said: "More and more people in Littlehampton are going hungry. The Citizens' Advice Bureau is seeing a lot of people who don't have food.

"It has surprised us. There are fewer jobs and we did anticipate the number of unemployed people going up, but it was a surprise to learn of the number of people going hungry. It's shocking in this modern age."

'How do people survive?'

The town council became involved when HOMElink and the Lions' club raised the issue with then mayor Alan Gammon last year. More than 30 organisations were invited to a meeting to discuss the situation. Most attended and agreed that there was a serious problem of people not having enough money to buy food.

HOMElink project manager Tony Moran said: "There was no support for those in need, from youngsters to the elderly. Older people are a generation who would rather pay their bills than make sure they have enough food to eat.

"Unemployment is going up, but how do people survive for those days and weeks between signing on and their benefit cheque arriving?"

Baptist church minister the Rev Andy Kerr said his congregation had been very keen to help after hearing about the Larder. "It's about providing an opportunity for those in the community who are, perhaps, more fortunate, to come together and love others in the community who, at the moment, are having hard times."

'Vital service'

Mr Gammon said: "It's a great example of partnership, charities and groups getting together to form such a vital service for the community in these very difficult times."

The parcels contain enough food for a family or individual for three days and are issued only in an emergency and no more often than once in three months.

Donations of tinned and dried foods can be left at the Larder distribution centre in the Baptist church in Fitzalan Road, Littlehampton, on Tuesdays and Fridays from 10am-12.30pm. A shopping list of items is available.

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