In little more than three years, the Hastings and Bexhill Foodbanks have become a vital part of the charity scene in the area.
Each branch provides a lifeline to people in crisis by supplying emergency food parcels to those in need as identified by care professionals, such as GPs, social workers, the Citizens Advice Bureau, the police or even schools.
Scores of people are helped by the foodbanks locally, with the Bexhill branch in Station Road providing food for 75 people a week alone.
The majority of those who come through the doors have been left without money following a change in benefits.
One visitor to Bexhill, who was suddenly made redundant, was left without an income for three weeks after a gap in switching his disability allowance to Jobseekers Allowance.
Others who come through the doors have mental health issues, while some are fleeing domestic violence.
Some are victims of crime - one elderly lady was forced to seek help from a local foodbank after opportunistic thieves stole her handbag containing her winter fuel allowance. In short - anyone could find themselves in need of the foodbank.
Natalie Williams, community engagement manager for Kings Church, home of the Hastings Foodbank, explains: “This is something that could happen to any one of us, at any time. We are probably one or two bad events in life away from needing help from the foodbank.”
Food parcels provide recipients with three meals for three days, based on a shopping list put together by the Trussell Trust, the umbrella organisation which oversees a nationwide network of foodbanks.
But the foodbanks like to provide sweet treats where possible, especially at Christmas time.
Natalie said: “One of the things we do at Christmas is ask people to put in a bit extra, like a box of chocolates or a Christmas pudding.
“Christmas is probably the worst time of year to be going hungry and thinking that you cannot feed your family.
“So not only to have the essentials but a bit extra is a brilliant thing.”
And the good work of the foodbanks does not stop with distributing food to those who walk through the doors.
Bexhill often gives food to the Rother women’s refuge and the St Leonards-based Snowflake Project, which helps the homeless during the winter months.
And no food ever goes to waste - any out of date tins or packets are given to Computers for Charities in Hailsham, which sends these on to refugees in Calais.
Meanwhile Kings Church is preparing gift boxes to donate to the Surviving Christmas Appeal, as well as hampers for clients of the Hastings and St Leonards Christians Against Poverty Centre, which helps people struggling with serious debt.
And the reach of the local foodbanks stretches far beyond Hastings and Bexhill.
Last year Bexhill opened distribution centres in Battle and Rye and foodbank project manager Simon Earl can often be seen out in the van, dropping off food parcels to those in need in rural Rother, including Robertsbridge, Northiam, Beckley and Camber.
Simon, said: “This Christmas we mark the third anniversary of opening.
“Very quickly we have become part of the established charity scene working in the Rother area; but I feel that there are still people who could do with our help but have yet to find their way to one of our three distribution centres.
“We rely very heavily on the support of local people who donate food but we are now in need of help with our operating costs.
“When we started we received grant funding from East Sussex and Rother District Councils - but now this has stopped.
“I hope this series of articles in the Observer will have a two fold impact for us in increasing donation of money as well as food, and in raising awareness of how we can help people who are struggling to put food in their cupboards.
“Christmas is a particular time when these people need our help.”
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