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Bexley Foodbank proving a hit

PUBLISHED: 09:35 24 January 2013 | UPDATED: 09:35 24 January 2013

Rev Rob Stevens with Susan Ryan collecting food and her grandaughter Aimee Oxlade

Rev Rob Stevens with Susan Ryan collecting food and her grandaughter Aimee Oxlade

Archant

People giving up their time, money and food selflessly "completely reaffirms your faith in humanity."

Foodbank helpers Joan Meme and Bonnie WadmoreFoodbank helpers Joan Meme and Bonnie Wadmore

So says Rev Rob Stevens who has been integral to establishing the Bexley food bank, which opened in October.

People who are deemed to be in need are referred to the service from a variety of organisations such as mental health charities, social services and the job centre.

It is part of a national programme run by the charity Trussell Trust and Mr Stevens says he has been astounded by the level of local support they have received.

“About 40 volunteers have lent themselves to the project already, and most of the churches in the borough have joined up.

“We’ve had 30 local schools donating food and we’re delighted with how much we’ve been given in three months or so.

“We’re not here to make judgments – we’re here to help people in their time of need and the more volunteers who help out the better.”

Customers are given vouchers from whoever referred them to take to the food bank, which are exchanged for a hot meal prepared by volunteers.

People can only be given a maximum of three vouchers in any nine-month period to stop them becoming dependent on the service.

“That is not our purpose,” said Mr Stevens. “We want to help people get back on their feet. They might then be referred to another organisation who we think might be able to help them with their problems.

“For example, we had one woman come in last week who was struggling to pay for food because her landlord has increased her rent twice in six months and she is on a low income.

“She left a lot happier than when she came and we sent her to the Citizen’s Advice Bureau who might be able to help her with her situation.”

The service runs every Tuesday and Thursday at Avery Hill Christian Fellowship church in Southspring, Sidcup.

December and January often see more visitors to food banks with increased heating bills and the pressure of Christmas.

Retired couple Paul and Cathy Purday volunteer once a fortnight and said they are delighted to help out people less fortunate than themselves.

Cathy said: “So many people have so little. Everyone we deal with is so grateful and giving up your time is really not very much in the grand scheme of things.

“It’s such a privilege to be able to give my time and effort to the food bank because I know we are in a fortunate position.”

Paul added: “There are certain things you can’t do. People have to have vouchers and you can’t give people money for the bus or anything else they might need. Discipline is important because the service is not there for people to become dependent on it.”

The food bank took 18 months to get off the ground as the church wanted to make sure it best suited the needs of the community and it is looking to expand over the coming months.

Avery Hill has put in most of the £6,000 or £7,000 it has taken to get it up and running and Mr Stevens says they are always looking for more funding.

It is open on Tuesdays from 10am to 1pm and Thursdays from noon to 3pm. For more information or to donate, call 07932 431350 or email info@bexley.foodbank,org.uk.

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