A charity has established a citywide food bank and expanded its hot-meals service for the first time in 30 years to meet growing demand. The St James' Settlement People's Food Bank, officially launched yesterday, will provide foodstuffs and hot meals to the needy through a network of local charities. The hot-meals service for the poor is the first of its kind on such a large scale since the 1970s, when the charity gave away milk and food to poor children. 'I didn't know that, 30 years later, we'd have to be providing the same kind of service,' said Michael Lai Kam-cheung, chief executive officer of St James' Settlement. The organisers are looking for donations of cash, fresh and canned food, and equipment to run the food bank. A supermarket chain and fast food restaurant Cafe de Coral have signed on as sponsors. The charity is also looking for a 4,000 sq ft warehouse to store dried foods, as well as freezers, a barcode system and office equipment. The organisers say a $90 donation will help provide one person with basic meals for a week. The hot-meals service is meant to offer short-term assistance for about six weeks, but there may be exemptions in special cases. St James' Settlement saw a need for the service after the charity started its free food service in Sai Ying Pun in November last year. The charity expanded the service three months ago as demand increased. The Sai Ying Pun canteen has served 299 people since it started. Nearly four in five of the recipients were male, with the majority aged between 40 and 60. Those being helped by the service include homeless people, the unemployed, new migrants from the mainland and poor families. Low-income families and the unemployed make up nearly half the recipients. More than half the users of the service travel from Kowloon and the New Territories to Sai Ying Pun. Wendy Wong Pui-yin, supervisor of the programme, said that, with 8 per cent unemployment, the need for food was great. Many people applying for social security often wait a month before receiving payments and therefore need assistance with food to tide them over, she said. Poor immigrants from the mainland also need the service because they do not qualify for Comprehensive Social Security Assistance until they have lived in Hong Kong for seven years. For more information about the People's Food Bank, call Chan Ping-lun at 2835 4321.