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In the weeks leading up to Christmas, food will have been on the minds of many. But for some, it’s less a question of what to cook and more about where the next meal is coming from.

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Luckily, Havering’s three food banks, run by the Trussell Trust, were on hand as December drew to a close. Supported by donations and volunteers, centres in Collier Row, Harold Hill and Rainham made Christmas merrier for 135 of Havering’s neediest people.

Food banks dish out emergency supplies of food in exchange for vouchers, which are obtained through police and health and social workers.

Rainham residents Richard Murton, 46 and his brother Chris Gordon, 33, were among those who turned to the Rainham food bank for their Christmas dinner.

“Without them I’d be completely lost,” said Richard. “Living off scraps is no good to anyone.”

Richard is unable to work because of mental health issues and relies upon benefits. Three years ago, he was reunited with his younger brother – who had been living on the streets for more than a decade – through a mutual friend, and took him in.

Richard, of Lower Mardyke Avenue, says the food bank makes all the difference when times are tough.

“I only go when I really need to – I don’t abuse their generosity,” he said.

“For the pair of us, it means rather than going hungry for a few days we have something to eat.”

The food bank, based in South Street’s Mardyke Community Centre and supported by the Trussell Trust and local church groups, helps in another way, too. Richard, who used to work at a chemical plant, suffered a breakdown six years ago and has been unable to return to work since.

But as a volunteer at the community centre – where he undertakes caretaker duties and delivers leaflets – he’s been able to give something back to the community he’s lived in for 12 years.

“It gives me a lot of confidence in myself to be able to go over there and give help,” he said, “and it gives me self-respect that they ask me for help at the food bank.

“Delivering leaflets gives me exercise and gets me out in the local area. My illness won’t allow me to go out and do much more than that.”

The Rainham food bank benefited from 1.25tonnes of food donated by Tesco shoppers throughout December. The supermarket chain was running a national campaign to collect food for the Trussell Trust, which operates food banks across the country.

In the fortnight leading up to Christmas, food banks gave 2000 people in London three days’ emergency food supplies.

For more information, visit http://www.trusselltrust.org/.

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