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Foodbank demand remains high

Foodbank manager David Grieve: 'I can only see demand for the foodbank going up' - Photo: Chris Cope/Shetland News

SHETLAND Foodbank has seen demand for food parcels remain at a high level over the last year as locals continue to struggle from changes in the welfare system.

The service, which now operates under the umbrella of the nationwide Trussell Trust, gave out 464 food packages over the last year.

At the pick-up point on Wednesday, there was a constant stream of individuals and care workers collecting on behalf of clients. One man said he hadn’t eaten since Sunday because he simply had no money.

The foodbank – located at Lerwick’s St Magnus Street after moving away from the Salvation Army premises in August – has been helped by an increase in public donations thanks to collections from the town’s Tesco supermarket.

Manager David Grieve said the foodbank has given out roughly the same amount of parcels compared to last year.

He said changes to the benefits system by the current UK government has continued to leave people in Shetland and across the country out of pocket, leading to increased demand for food parcels.

“The biggest single reason for demand is delays in getting benefits payments, either because folk’s benefits change and they have to wait three or four weeks, or when people have to wait to receive money when you sign on for Universal Credit,” Grieve said.

“That’s fine if you’ve had a good job and you’ve got money saved, but if you’ve been on a basic minimum wage, you’ve got nothing to fall back on.

“That’s the biggest reason. It’s purely a government system and it’s hitting people throughout the country in the same way. Other than that, there’s a range of normal reasons, such as ill health and the cost of living.”

Grieve said there had been a “huge response” by locals when it came to donating items to the foodbank, with collections from Tesco seeing their public contribution up by 25 per cent.

“Another big positive this year is that we have quite a large number of schools coming on board,” he added.

“Schools are always keen to be involved, but I’ve had especially big support this year. I’ve been out to see seven different primary schools about the work of the foodbank, and there’s also been lots of promises of future support.

“The upper primary classes in Brae for example have not only done an advent collection for us, but they’re currently negotiating with the Brae Co-op to arrange a permanent collection point.”

In the lead-up to the festive period, the foodbank gives out special Christmas packages designed to make life easier for anyone needing a little bit of help.

Grieve said around 70 people have received the Christmas parcels so far, on top of the regular packages.

However, with the Shetland Gas Plant construction project ending and the building of the new Anderson High School set to conclude in September, Grieve expects there could be a knock-on effect to the local economy and people’s finances in the year ahead.

“I can only see demand for the foodbank going up,” he said.