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Helping people rebuild their lives.

A food bank catering specifically to the Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) community in Brighton and Hove has been a welcome addition to the many food banks operating during the pandemic. It is run out of the BMECP Centre in Brighton’s Fleet Street, where the Black & Minority Ethnic Community Partnership offers affordable and welcoming space for training, meetings and cultural events.

FareShare Sussex’s volunteer Val caught up with Juliet Sekitoleko from the centre.

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Juliet told Val how although there has been an increase in the number of foodbanks in Brighton since the pandemic, none are focussed specifically on BME needs.

If someone comes from Africa or is Afro-Caribbean, their package will include rice, cooking oil and maybe plantain; if from the Middle East they will get couscous; and from India, chapatis. Other food banks will be giving the same to everyone.

Juliet Sekitoleko, BMECP’s Project, Marketing and Fundraising Manager

Demand for the food bank, which started up last May, has continued to grow.

“At the beginning we were getting 40-42 families a week, which rose to 60 during the second lockdown. Now, on average, we are seeing 70 a week,” said Juliet.

They also provide guidance on where people can get help with accommodation, childcare and mental health issues. With plans to phase out the food bank in June, they are focusing on other ways to help the BME community.

I don’t want people to become too dependent on the food bank, but rather help them to rebuild their lives like getting back into work. Therefore, I want us to focus more on the Centre’s new Internet hub, which will offer a drop-in service where people can work on their CVs and search for work.

Juliet Ssekitoleko

Plans to establish the Internet hub are now well underway since they got funding to buy computers. It should be up and running by early summer.

Their overall aim of the BMECP is to create a sustainable resource centre for the local BME community. However, the pandemic has deeply impacted their main source of income, which comes from hiring out rooms and office facilities at affordable rates. The monies from this are reinvested back into the Centre. They intend to generate enough surplus funds to not only be sustainable but also to fund in-house projects, including training and events, to provide further support to the BME community.

The Centre is currently looking at ways to promote these facilities for hire once the pandemic ends as they believe there is a general lack of awareness of their availability.

The food bank operates on Fridays between 12 and 3pm.

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