It’s hard to believe that in as affluent a community as Farnham, families and individuals are choosing between heating a home, paying rent, buying food or keeping clean.

Yet that is the reality faced by the Farnham and Aldershot Hygiene Bank, which is supporting 500 families and individuals in the area every week and, like the Food Bank, is struggling to keep up with spiralling demand.

Helena Vernon, project co-ordinator, said: “A mum, she’s got three girls. All four of them have got periods. No money to buy period products. So they’re using pieces of toilet paper. How uncomfortable is that?”

Hygiene poverty is on the rise locally, and can be humiliating and excluding, often results in social isolation and affects all ages.

Mrs Vernon added: “We’re supplying really desperately needed products that people can’t afford – not silly things like hairspray.

“If you’ve got the choice between food or hygiene products, what are you going to do? But without hygiene products, it stops people going for interviews because they’re not clean, they haven’t washed their hair – so they haven’t got a job because they haven’t got any money.”

Families in these dire situations could soon become even more desperate, however, if the Farnham and Aldershot Hygiene Bank cannot find a new distribution hub.

The local Hygiene Bank project organiser, Helena Vernon, said: “If we don’t find a new storage facility we are going to fail and will have to close. It’s desperate. Definitely, definitely, somebody, somewhere, must have some empty space that we could use. 

“We have been using part of the garage of the Reverends Alan and Lesley Crawley in Farnham but they are moving in January and it is no longer an option.

The space needed by the Hygiene Bank is about the size of half a garage, 40 square feet
The space needed by the Hygiene Bank is about the size of half a garage, 40 square feet (Farnham and Aldershot Hygiene Bank)

“I have exhausted just about every contact I have, plus I have been in touch with all of the councils, and lots of the charity partners that we deliver to. I’ve been in touch with a few schools, I’m banging my head up against the wall really. 

“I’ve also been in touch with the Lions, the Hedgehogs, the Rotary Club, the Round Table. I just don’t know where else to go and we don’t have funds to pay for storage.”

The space needed is about the size of half a garage, 40 square feet. What items come in go straight out again, it’s not for holding onto vast amounts of products. 

The facility needs to be on the ground floor, secure, accessible to six people once a week, dry and have electricity to run electronic scales to weigh products in and out of the lock-up. 

Mrs Vernon said: “We have a gentleman at the moment who is bed-bound and the incontinent pads that he was using just weren’t fit for the job. We found some much better ones and have been supplying him with these better pads and his bedsores have gone. 

“We support a women’s refuge and are always being asked for the larger size nappies. Anything for children, shower foam and hair wash stuff but generally it’s the nappies, they’re expensive.” 

If you can help, get in touch with the Farnham and Aldershot Hygiene Bank by calling 07963 336779.

How else can you help the hygiene bank?

Farnham and Aldershot Hygiene Bank depends on people’s generosity to help meet soaring local demand for basic hygiene products.

Where you can donate:

The nine collection points its nine volunteers manage can be found at: Between the Lines, Farnham; Aldershot Co-op, North Lane; Bourne Stores; Tesco’s in Wellington Avenue, Aldershot; The Spire Church in Farnham; Boots in Farnham, Aldershot and Fleet; and Tesco Express in Upper Hale.

It caters for people of all ages, from pre-birth to people 100 years old.

Most in-demand items:

Shampoos, conditioner, soap, period products, toothbrushes: for adults and children, toothpaste for adults and children, nappies, all cleaning equipment, washing up liquid, kitchen spray, toilet rolls, deodorant, shower gel, razors, baby wipes and all baby products

Charity partners include:

The Vine Centre in Aldershot; Headley Down food bank; Waverley Home Start; The Barnardo’s Family Centre; The Society of St James in Aldershot; Step by Step; Rushmoor Home Start; Hale Community Fridge and Cupboard; The Community Grubhub in Aldershot; Creative Response; Thames Valley Positive Support; Brambleton Community Fridge and Warehouse; The Rushmoor Health visiting team; Farnham Help for Refugees; Farnham Food Bank; Citizens Advice, Farnham. Find out more at and

How and why Hygiene Bank began...

Watching a Ken Loach film inspired one woman to start a UK-wide charity to provide hygiene products.

“The Hygiene Bank founder Lizzy Hall, was watching I, Daniel Blake,” said Helen Patel, media associate at The Hygiene Bank.

There’s a scene in it where a single mother goes to a food bank for the first time. She asks for some period products, they don’t have any, and she later goes on to get caught shoplifting period products, a deodorant and some razors from a shop. 

“It was just a really humiliating sort of moment that really brought it home that if you can’t afford food, you can’t afford to keep yourself clean.

“And all the problems that are wrapped up in that, the lack of confidence, self esteem, mental health issues. People don’t see it until they sort of think about the connection and then it becomes quite clear.”

Along with Food banks, the need for hygiene products is so great that five years later there are now 190 projects across the UK from Cornwall to a new opening in the Outer Hebrides.

There are 538 UK-wide active volunteers collecting and distributing hygiene products to food banks, schools, domestic violence shelters, baby banks, and any community based charities and organisations that support people experiencing poverty and crisis.