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Love Kingston appeal: Feeding hungry families this Christmas
This Christmas, as recession bites, debt-ridden parents in the borough, rather than tightening belts, will be getting further into the red.
That is the view of Paul Pickhaver, organiser of Kingston Food Bank, who said even middle classes are coming to the drop-off centre looking for help.
He said: “These payday loan companies and pawnbrokers popping up is no coincidence. There are more of them simply because more people are using them.
“Kingston is an affluent area but it is also an area with much higher debt on average than most other parts of the country.
“Many parents feel that to be a good mum or dad means buying stuff for your children, not wanting them to go without, and ending up in debt.
“They sometimes end up not being able to pay off that debt and that is when they will need the food bank.”
Food vouchers are issued by social workers and other front-line agencies including Kingston CAB and can be exchanged at the Food Bank for emergency supplies.
The Food Bank, started this time last year, is on all year round, but runs special projects during October and November in school and churches to help top up supplies.
They also ran food bank days at supermarkets across the borough at the beginning of December; this year collecting more than four tonnes in just two days.
Paul admits that during the festive season the banks are often well stocked but insists that the generosity of the people of Kingston mean they are never in danger of running out food.
He said: “I don’t want to say we have all we need because that might mean people stop giving but the people of Kingston give to us all year round.
“When we started last year we had no idea how well we would cope but the response we have had has been unbelievable.
“We will have people phoning up all times of the year saying ‘We are going shopping for the food bank, what do you need?’
"Or elderly people who don’t need their winter fuel allowance.
“I think people like it because they know when they give something it is going to a good cause.”
Paul said that without the help of local businesses the project could never have got off the ground.
He said: “Waitrose are great but a special mention has to go to the Big Yellow Storage Company in Tolworth, who not only let us use their storage space to store our food, but also act as a drop-off centre. “That is hundreds of pounds of rent that we definitely could not afford.”
To donate to Kingston Food Bank visit love-kingston.org.uk.
In the first 12 months of operating (December 2011 – December 2012) Kingston Foodbank provided emergency food to 2,357 local people (1,474 adults, 883 children).
It has received more than 25 tonnes of donated non-perishable food On average, about 1,500kg of food is distributed to clients through the Foodbank every month.
Clients are referred to the foodbank from one of the 90 frontline agencies Main causes of crisis in Kingston are low income, unemployment and benefit delays.
According to the Consumer Credit Counselling Service, debt levels are on average 50 per cent higher in Kingston (£24,000 compared with £16,000 nationally).
Visit love-kingston.org.uk for more on the appeal.