Midhurst Foodbank volunteers train to fill gap in support services

Midhurst Foodbank was busier than ever at Christmas and volunteers think this is a symptom of other problems
Midhurst Foodbank was busier than ever at Christmas and volunteers think this is a symptom of other problems

Volunteers at the Midhurst Foodbank are undertaking special training after discovering there is a major gap in support services for people in need north of the Downs.

Chrissy Abbott, who co-ordinates the town’s foodbank with her husband Mike, told the Observer: “We are finding more and more people coming to us needing food and this is a symptom of all sorts of other problems they are facing, such as debt and accessing the right benefits, and they do not know who to turn to.”

Now new IT equipment has been given to the Chichester District Foodbank, paid for with lottery funding, and volunteers are being trained to use online services to offer help and advice.

“We want to make sure people in need know what there is on offer to them and there is very limited support available to them in the Midhurst area.”

She said there was no longer a service offered by the Citizens Advice Bureau in Midhurst.

In addition a West Sussex County Council trial, offering free telephone calls to people to check whether they were receiving all the benefits due to them, had closed down after six months. “This is a huge shame because it was very useful,” said Chrissy.

On top of those losses the Children and Families Centre which was based at Midhurst Primary School, has also closed. “And unbelievably,” added Chrissy, “West Sussex County Council’s office for support for vulnerable adults in Midhurst is now located in Bognor.”

She said volunteers had taken the step to extend their support because so much help had now disappeared.

“If we don’t do something people’s problems will just go on and on,” she said.

“We are really trying to develop our contacts with other support agencies, organisations and volunteers because we all need to help each other to help people in need.”

The work will be in addition to trying to cater for an ever increasing need from struggling parents to help them feed their children.

This summer more families than ever before relied on the Midhurst foodbank and over the six week holiday 300 lunch boxes were handed out for children containing a total of 4.2 tonnes of food.

Volunteers filled another 150 boxes over Christmas with 14kg of food in each one. Chrissy said the need had increased dramatically, particularly in rural schools.

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