A hard-working Foodbank volunteer was in tears when an NHS nurse visited to collect a grocery package.
Sue Hickling has been helping others in Skegness for two years. LincolnshireLive reports.
She says it was heartbreaking to see a nurse in need of food bank support to feed her and her daughter.
“I just couldn’t believe an NHS nurse came to the grocery bank to help. It brought me to tears.
“She came to eat for her and her daughter. With everything that was going on, I just couldn’t believe it.”
Sue volunteers at Skegness Foodbank at The Storehouse, which received 2,390 grocery package recommendations in 2020.
The food bank serves the entire community, from individuals to those struggling to support families of up to 12 people.
Volunteers say more families need help, an increasing number because of the financial hardship the pandemic brings.
The nurse visited the food distribution center in the run-up to Christmas. Sue says the number of first-time users of the service has increased as many were suddenly without income.
“A lot of the people we saw have been on leave or have lost their jobs waiting for their benefits to come through,” said Sue.
“At first people were panicking, which I totally understand.
“For some, they had never run out of money so it was very scary for them.
“We had a number of Eastern European people who, possibly due to the language barrier, lost their jobs and had difficulty accessing the benefit system. They came and we gave them what we had on the table outside.”
In addition to making referrals, The Storehouse maintains an outdoor table of groceries for those in need to come and take items with them.
Sue says families used the table to feed their children when schools closed.
She said, “It’s really heartbreaking how many families we see now relying on the grocery bank to put groceries on the table.
“We had a couple who came because they wanted to see what was on the empty table so they could have their kids lunch.
“I opened the door and asked her if she would like to take one of the huge cans of baked beans and some bread. She was close to tears.
“The thing is, nobody wants to come to a grocery bank.
“You can sometimes see in people’s eyes they’re embarrassed, but they shouldn’t be.
“I’m just trying to put myself in their shoes. I don’t want to be treated as a second class citizen.
“People who come to us are just people who have gotten into tough times for some reason and we have to be here to help them.”
Sue explains that her community has really come together to help those in need.
“The kindness and generosity I see in Skegness is amazing,” she said.
“We have little old ladies who come every week and give a donation. They go from town to the food counter.
“The people here are fantastic.”
Diz Middleton, who works as a manager at the Foodbank, says they are now handing out around 50 packages a week.
Last April, the Foodbank had 286 recommendations, compared to 170 the previous year. And in May the recommendations rose from 209 in the previous year to 273.
Diz said: “There was a real increase in April and May last year, which decreased in August as there was some seasonal work, but it has increased again since then and has been pretty consistent.
“We’re seeing more families, especially when school meals aren’t available.
“But on the plus side, we received some wonderful donations.
“Butlins and the Caravan Parks donated, and we made regular donors from supermarkets like Morrisons.
“We hope to be able to start a project next month, thanks to a donation from a local company, to start a project to provide laundry facilities and a kitchen area for the homeless and to give them a little better support.
“The support from our local community has been wonderful, it really has.”
Reports from Trussell Trust UK show that 1.2 million grocery packages were handed out between April 1 and September 30, 2020.
Across their UK network, that was a huge 47 percent increase in demand.
In the first six months of the pandemic, a total of 2,600 emergency food packages were provided to children every day.