A VOLUNTEER-run service which has helped thousands of people facing the real threat of going without food has launched a bid to find a new base.

Basingstoke Foodbank has been based at Trinity Methodist Church, in Sarum Hill, since its inception in October 2012.

The service, which provided just under 4,000 food parcels in its sixth year of operation from October 2017 to September 2018, quickly outgrew the location, however, and took on extra storage facilities across Basingstoke, but logistically this has now proved problematic.

Paula Vallance, Basingstoke Foodbank operations and development manager, said: "Basingstoke Community Churches gave us, for free, two classrooms in the building next to the food bank which has been fantastic, but we still had to put food into cars and actually drive it next door as there is so much food that is donated.

"There is a time cost there and our volunteers are generally aged 60 to 80 so we cannot ask them to do so much lifting and shifting. And our section of the church is difficult to access for people in wheelchairs and prams.

"Hampshire County Council gave us a premise at a peppercorn rent, but by the end of our first month there we were advised that it was on the market.

"So it has all come to a head really."

The ideal location for the service, which receives no statutory funding and relies entirely on volunteers and donations, would be in the town centre to make it as easy as possible for clients to get to the site.

Bosses at the Basingstoke Foodbank, which was a finalist in the Place To Be Proud Of Awards last week, have approached two town centre locations, but the rent is prohibitive and so an approach being explored is to partner up with another Basingstoke charity to make an offer.

Paula added: "We would really be open to sharing our space which we already are doing with a Citizens Advice drop-in. That way we can make it easier for people in crisis to get more of the help they need in one place. Food is what people need, but there are so many reasons for why they are in food crisis."

Having a permanent base of its own is also key as the need for a food bank is unlikely to go away, according to Paula.

She added: "Looking at the numbers, there is no forecast of need dropping anytime soon."

To get in touch with suggestions for a new location for Basingstoke Foodbank, or any charity partners wishing to share a premise, email admin@basingstoke.foodbank.org.uk.