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How the cost-of-living is affecting Canterbury charities helping those most in need

Empty shelves (Canterbury Food Bank)

Catching Lives and Canterbury Food Bank are forking out more cash than ever to meet rising food bills due to the impacts of the cost-of-living.

At the same time, both charities are seeing an increased demand on their services as those most in need turn to them for help.

Canterbury Food Bank relied solely on donations four years ago, but this year has budgeted nearly £100,000 to buy emergency food parcels for people in the Canterbury, Whitstable and Herne Bay district.

David Holt, Canterbury Food Bank trustee, said: “Just four years ago we bought no food at all. We now buy in more food than we receive in donations at supermarkets and elsewhere.

“The cost-of-living crisis has affected us in three ways: firstly, it has led to a huge surge in the number of clients; secondly, it has led to fewer donations in supermarkets and thirdly it has meant we have had to buy in more food to tackle that shortfall.

“It is not the case that donations in our supermarket baskets have slumped – people are still very generous – it is more the case that demand is now outstripping supply.

“It takes a moment in someone’s life – a single bill, a small event like a child losing a coat at school, or a minor accident – to bring people to the food bank. 

“But the cost-of-living crisis has turned what was once a steady stream into a raging river of poverty. We do not see that relenting in the immediate future.”

Meanwhile Catching Lives, a day centre supporting people who are sleeping rough, hidden homeless and insecurely housed in Canterbury & East Kent, has seen its average monthly food bill increase by 36% year on year from £880 a month to £1,200.

The centre, which provides clients with two meals a day seven days a week, is also having to buy in supplies that used to come in as donations.

Chief Executive Tasmin Maitland said: “We regularly find ourselves running low or out of key items, such as sugar, handwash, coffee and biscuits that in the past have always come through donations without needing a specific appeal.

“We’re seeing increasing numbers and a higher proportion of people who have accommodation but can’t afford rent, bills, food, transport, so the need for our service is higher both in practical terms such as food costs and the level of support required to help keep people in their accommodation.

“In the past we would usually see people requesting food parcels due to specific reasons such as unexpected bills, loss of employment, illness but now more often than not the reason people give when they request one is simply that they cannot afford to buy food as well as pay rent/energy bills etc due to the cost of living crisis.

“It’s devastating to see people forced to choose between paying the bills or putting food on the table. We are so grateful for support and need it now more than ever to keep our essential services running through the cost-of-living crisis.”

If you want to donate to Catching Lives, financially or otherwise, you can donate here. Food donations can be dropped off at the day centre in Station Road East, Canterbury between 9am and 4pm every day.

More information about donating to Canterbury Food Bank can be found via the charity’s website.

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