A FOOD bank has served more than 1,000 people this year in one of the most affluent areas of the borough. The Purley Food Hub, which was set up in January this year to help those affected by Government welfare changes, reached its 1,000th person last week. Those in need of the emergency food parcels are referred to the group by more than 40 charities, local agencies and professionals around Croydon. Helen Harris, the hub's chairman, told the Advertiser: "We realised there was a need for a food bank early this year after talking to schools and agencies in the area. "It was slow and steady until April when the big benefit changes came in and since then we have had a lot more people come through the door. "People have been surprised at the level of need. They don't think of Purley or Kenley having poor areas but there are real pockets of poverty." Mrs Harris said she had seen people walk more than four miles to get to the food bank because they could not afford the bus, as well as an elderly woman who only had one packet of soup in her cupboard. "The thing is, it can happen to anyone," Mrs Harris said. "It takes around three weeks for benefits to come through and in that time people can be desperate. It's not uncommon that you can have a job and a house one minute and lose your job and have your house repossessed in the next." The food bank organiser said she had seen many parents come through the door unable to feed their children properly and was setting up a new system for school holidays. She said: "We realised that families whose children have free school meals in term time really struggle when it's the holidays. "We asked schools to select families they thought really needed help and gave our food parcels to them in the October half term." The group, which was set up by Purley and Kenley Churches Together, runs monthly stalls outside Waitrose in Coulsdon and Sanderstead as well as the Sainsbury's Local and Tesco in Purley where shoppers can donate tinned and dried food. "We have been utterly amazed by the generosity of everyone," Mrs Harris said. "We rely entirely on donations." The group has more than 100 volunteers and is looking for a warehouse between 50 and 75 square metres in Purley to accommodate food for the increased demand. At the end of September, the hub gave out enough food to feed 68 adults and children in one distribution session alone. Anyone interested in helping the Purley Food Hub should e-mail email@example.com or call 07546 635295.
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