Food panty in Sussex in desperate need of donations as demand rockets with rising cost of living

Tap to watch this video report by ITV News Meridian's James Dunham

A vital food pantry service in Sussex to help people struggling with the cost of living is itself reaching out for support after seeing a surge in demand.

The branch of 'Your Local Pantry' in Burgess Hill has seen daily users increase to 29 from nine just a year ago.

The centre relies on donations from the public, local supermarkets Tesco, Waitrose and the Co-Op and food banks in addition to grant funding to keep the shelves topped up.

However, rising food prices mean people aren't donating as much and the money received from grants isn't going as far as it used to.

The food pantry in Burgess Hill Credit: ITV Meridian

"Everybody is struggling so they can't afford to do those extras and donate like they used to", says pantry coordinator Julie Smyth.

"I don't think I anticipated this growth. And in actual fact, 'Your local pantries' are all over the country and I think there were probably 15 to 20 when we started and there are now 82 pantries."

"It's not just families. So we got we've got about 75 of our members are single people. It's the same for fuel bills whether you are in single person household or if you're in a dual working household so we're finding an increase in the number of single people applying for membership."

Members pay £4 in return for £20 worth of food Credit: ITV Meridian

To use the pantry, people pay £4 in exchange for £20 worth of items which include essentials such as bread, soup and vegetables.

The pantry opened in May 2021 with 15 members and over the past year that has risen to 200 members with 18 on a waiting list.  

With more funding or food donations membership numbers could be extended 250.

Claire Handford has been a member since April and relies on the pantry to ease the financial pressure of feeding her children, mother and father who she lives with.

The food pantry in Burgess Hill is an essential service Credit: ITV Meridian

"It makes a massive difference to our family. It means that I don't have to worry about what we've got coming in.

"It also means that I can give my children the little treats, a trip to the cinema once a month for example, which I wouldn't have been able to do without the pantry.

"It would hurt a lot of families in town if the service couldn't be here and provide what it does the way it does."

The pantry is looking to find further grant funding and have also launched an appeal for people to sponsor a 'Meal a Month' by giving a £5 donation.