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Use of foodbank increases to record levels

Pupils from Bells Brae P6 delivering food donation to David Grieve of Shetland Foodbank on Wednesday afternoon. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News.

THE NUMBER of people resorting to Shetland Foodbank has continued to grow, with record amounts of food distributed being attributed to delays in benefit payments.

Shetland Foodbank will have handed out more than 1000 parcels of food, each designed to feed one person for one week, during 2018 – what it calls “1000 person-weeks of food”.

Help has been offered on more than 800 occasions to individuals, couples or families. During 2017, the equivalent number was 626. Almost one-fifth of those helped in 2018 have been children under the age of 16.

Shetland Foodbank co-ordinator David Grieve said that people who sought the help of the food bank were “always really grateful for the food they receive”. Comments like “incredibly kind” or “you really help us out in very hard times” or, simply, “a lifesaver” were frequently made to volunteers.

Grieve added: “It is a really sad reflection that we must depend on charity to support the poorest and most vulnerable in our community.

“I would really love to be able to announce the closure of our food bank because we no longer need it, but I don’t expect to see that happen, unfortunately.”

Grieve revealed that 290 different individuals, couples and families had been offered essential food supplies during the year and each individual on average received four food parcels.

He said that Shetland Foodbank had been able to meet this demand because it has received incredible support from individuals, organisations and businesses locally.

“Donations come to us from all over Shetland (and occasionally from outwith the islands) both as food and cash and we want to offer a huge thank you to everyone who has supported our work in any way,” he added.

According to the charity more than half of all the requests for help are due to problems with benefits payments such as unexpected reductions, or delays in payments. Any shortfall in income often leads to debts and payments arrears building up, which are almost impossible to overcome when funds are very limited.