Canterbury Food Bank carries out vital work across the district, supplying in excess of 33,000 meals to more than 1,500 needy people in the last year alone – more than 40% of which were for children.
For the last half-decade, it has rented a premises owned by Riverside Vineyard Church for a “peppercorn” fee of just £10 a month, using the warehouse to store thousands of food and drink items.
But now its five-year rental contract for the site off the Old Thanet Way in Whitstable has come to an end, the church has decided not to allow it to be renewed.
Lead pastors Simon and Keely Bateson said: “When the Riverside site was purchased by the church back in 2015, it presented a great opportunity to offer Canterbury Food Bank an operating base until 2020.
“Riverside Vineyard Church decided to provide ongoing financial support to the food bank during the tenancy by charging only a nominal rent for the warehouse space.
“The five-year term aligned with the long-term vision of the church to completely refurbish the site to become a community hub, centred around church.”
‘It will be a huge challenge to find suitable premises at a price we can afford’
They added that the next phase of this plan requires the total remodelling of the warehouse building, so the church can create a “compassion hub”, incorporating space for a winter night shelter, a multi-use sports hall, events hall and youth area.
It costs more than £60,000 annually to run Canterbury Food Bank.
Chairman of trustees Martin Ward says its business model currently depends upon the extremely low rent it has been paying, and that this will have to be revised if an alternative is not found.
But the charity is determined to take the disappointing news in its stride.
Mr Ward said: “While it will be a huge challenge to find suitable premises at a price we can afford, we are looking positively at the prospect of moving.
“Demand for the services of Canterbury Food Bank is increasing dramatically. Over the past year alone there was a 12.5% increase in the number of parcels issued.
“A new warehouse will enable us to plan for extra projected demand.”
The food bank’s original lease was set to end on September 30 next year. But Riverside has greed to grant the charity a one-year extension, to give it time to find a new premises.
Mr Ward says the food bank is grateful for the church’s help, and that it will be business as usual while the search for a new warehouse progresses.
He added: “The Trustees do not anticipate any circumstance that will prevent us maintaining our service to local people who are in need of food.”
Mr Ward urges any property owners with a premises suitable for use as the food bank’s warehouse and office to get in touch as soon as possible.
For more information about the food bank and its services, visit the Canterbury Food Bank website.