A significant increase in the number of food banks in the region is no surprise for the chief executive of a Horsham charity.
However, David Sheldon of Horsham Matters says he thinks ‘most people will be surprised’ by the figures revealed by the area’s Green MEP.
Keith Taylor says the use of food banks in his South East constituency increased by more than 60 per cent in 2013, with more than 59 now in operation.
Mr Sheldon, who is also a Liberal democrat district and county councillor, said Horsham Matters will be adding to that figure towards the end of January with the launch of the charity’s own food bank.
The intention is to have branches of the free food service in Henfield and Storrington, as well as Horsham.
According to My Taylor, 33 per cent of people requiring donations face benefits delays, 19 per cent cite benefits changes as their reason for visiting, while 18.5 per cent say their need derives from a low income.
“Food banks are a lifeline to those in need and, sadly, one of Britain’s booming industries,” said the MEP.
“Across the South East demand for emergency food is soaring while people’s wages stagnate and the cost of living shoots up.
“In the sixth largest economy in the world no one should be relying on emergency food handouts at Christmas, it’s a national disgrace.”
Mr Sheldon said the statistics did not surprise him, but added he thought others would be taken aback at the growing need of food banks.
“I think most people will be surprised that they are within what might be considered to be an affluent area of the country, but so many people need help.
“I feel a kind of sadness that so many people are having to resort to getting food from other people because they can’t afford to supply their own.”
Reflecting on the local demand for a food bank, the Horsham Matters chief executive added: “We know there are a number of people in our community who are struggling right now.
“I am not anticipating a queue outside on the first day but I think we will see increased usage - it is not going to go away any time soon, and all food banks across the country have experienced a steady increase in usage.