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Food bank demand “massively up”

Salvation Army corps officer Angela Nunn and part time worker David Grieve at the North Road food bank last December, since when demand has grown "massively". Photo Shetnews

LERWICK Salvation Army has put out an urgent appeal for extra supplies for its busy food bank as demand from across the isles hits record levels.

So far this year the Christian organisation’s North Road centre has handed out 156 food parcels to people living below the breadline, an increase of 50 per cent on 2014.

On Thursday evening corps officer Angela Nunn put out a call on Facebook for a range of supplies including tins of “soup, baked beans, spaghetti, tomatoes; pasta sauce and ‘meals in a tin’”.

Nunn said it was unclear why there had been such an upsurge of demand this year, including this month which has already seen 13 parcels handed out despite it being summer when requests are normally few and far between.

“We have been really, really busy, the trend is massively up,” she said.

“Some people might say it’s because more people are getting to know about us, but I think the need is there. People are not asking for food parcels that don’t need them.

“There are people who are really struggling in the community.

“It’s been a long, cold winter as well and we have not had much sun this summer so people are having to put their heating on more and are really wrestling with the question do I heat or do I eat.”

Three years ago in 2012 the Salvation Army handed out just 46 food parcels by the end of May. That figure rose to 95 in 2014, then to 101 last year and in 2015 rocketed up again to 143.

Nunn said 95 per cent of requests were referred from social workers or the NHS, and came from the length and breadth of Shetland, “from Unst to Fair Isle”.

The Salvation Army is gearing up for its regular Fair Share effort with supermarket Tesco, which invites people to contribute some of their shopping to the food bank.

However with stores running so low, an extra appeal is going out for people to drop much needed items off at the North Road centre on weekday afternoons between 2 and 4.30pm.

Donations can also be made at the Lerwick branch of Royal Bank of Scotland, Walls shop, Bigton shop, Lerwick’s Market House and Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary.

A food parcel contains a week’s supply of teabags, coffee, dried milk, cereal, tinned fruit, rice pudding and custard, tinned meals like curry, chilli and hot dogs, tinned soup, potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, peas and sweetcorn, pasta and rice, a jar of sauce, biscuits and toiletries.

Nunn said the package was designed for people who might not be able to afford much electricity or was unable to cook, so therefore was easy to heat.

Meanwhile the Lerwick branch of the Salvation Army was a runner up in the charity’s national competition for the best community programme of the year. Nunn said the nomination was “a huge accolade for such a small place as this”.

The Lerwick branch operates with one full time, one part time and two volunteer workers. Reliable volunteers would be welcomed to join.