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Community / ‘Alarming’ rise in foodbank use

As many as 170 individuals or families received regular support during the last six months

Local foodbank co-ordinator David Grieve. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

SHETLAND Foodbank is expecting to give out more than 50 Christmas parcels with gifts gathered by Living Lerwick as well as food.

The foodbank volunteers are currently looking to referral agencies to nominate people who would benefit from some additional support during the festive period.

Foodbank co-ordinator David Grieve said that food bank use had again risen hugely in the six months to the end of October with its use to support families also growing.

Operated by the Trussell Trust, the charity’s statistics showed that 481 food parcels were given out to support 727 people (553 adults and 174 children) compared with 304 food parcels to 340 adults and 71 children in the same period last year.

Grieve said: “This was a 58 per cent rise in food parcels, but more alarmingly a 143 per cent rise in the number of children being supported.

“The percentage of parcels being distributed to families in 2018 was less than 10 per cent compared to more than 17 per cent in the same six-month period in 2019.

“These 481 food parcels supported 170 different individuals or families, which indicates that, on average, each client has received help on three different occasions during this six-month period.”

Grieve added: “People in our community facing a crisis situation are referred to the Shetland Foodbank by 18 different statutory or voluntary support agencies. Almost 70 per cent of these referrals came from social workers, the SIC Housing Support Service, Job Centre Plus and Shetland Islands Citizens Advice Bureau.

“It is not possible to give specific examples of the reasons clients are referred to the foodbank for help.

“However, the main reasons are concerned with the benefits system which supports those most in need.  Delays in payment of, or changes to, benefits, or the debts incurred while people wait for their first payment are the main reasons forcing people to seek help.”

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A recent report by Heriot Watt University, entitled the State of Hunger, confirmed that these same reasons are the main causes of food poverty throughout the United Kingdom. This report also found that people who have been referred to a food bank have an average weekly income, after housing costs, of just £50.

“If someone has to wait five weeks to receive their first benefit, they end up in arrears with rent, electricity, etc. and how can they pay off those debts if they are struggling to live on £50?” asked Grieve.

“The information quoted above paints a dramatic picture of people facing crisis situations. It is worth remembering that the 170 people who have been helped by the foodbank are only a small proportion of Shetland’s population but, like everyone else in our community, they should be able to afford food and have electricity to cook and heat their home.

“Shetland is a very generous community and our foodbank is extremely well supported with both food and financial donations coming from all corners of our islands.  It is this generous support that allows those in need in our islands to find some basic support to help them through difficult times.”

“It is worth remembering that the 170 people who have been helped by the foodbank are only a small proportion of Shetland’s population but, like everyone else in our community, they should be able to afford food and have electricity to cook and heat their home.”

Grieve offered a “huge thank you” to everyone who supported the bank on a regular basis and at special events like last week’s National Food Collection at Tesco.

Customers donated 318 crates of food and this weighed in at 3,802 kg of food and toiletries. Alongside these donations Shetland Foodbank also received 14 carrier bags of food from Shetland Netball Association, collected at their tournament at Clickimin on Sunday.

He added: “These food donations will keep shelves at the Foodbank stocked up over the winter months when demand is expected to be even higher than last year.”

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