Falkirk Foodbank helps put food on the table

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For many people in the Falkirk area the reality is they will be going to bed tonight hungry.

Parents who have given what little food they had to their children; pensioners who have skipped a meal to put money into their electric or gas meter; and others who have chosen to pay their rent or mortgage rather than eat today.

Struggling to believe it is happening on our doorstep? Many people will, but the sad fact is that it is true – and looming social welfare reforms could push even more below the poverty breadline.

Already parts of Bainsford/Langlees, Camelon, Dunipace and Hallglen are amongst the poorest communities in Scotland.

The extent of that social deprivation led a group of Christians to get together to look at what they could do to help alleviate some of the hardship brought about by poverty.

A foodbank which would provide a lifeline to households was seen as a tangible way of providing assistance. After speaking to The Trussell Trust, the organisation which has set up a network of similar ventures across the UK, Falkirk Foodbank was formed and last month gained charitable status.

The Rev. Stuart Sharp of Camelon Parish Church is a member of the Evangelical Leaders Forum which initiated the project and chairman of the foodbank board of trustees.

He stressed many of those who are struggling to feed themselves and their families are decent, working class people whose income does not cover their bills, not even to pay for necessities like food.

The minister said: “These are not skivers or shirkers. They are people who are trying to put food on the table for their family. They may be earning the minimum wage, but that is not a living wage.

“The benefit changes which are coming will bring more hardship. For instance, people currently on full housing benefit having to find an extra 14-25 per cent which is going to make the situation far, far worse.

“There are also those who have suddenly lost their job and with it their income. It can take six to eight weeks to get benefits and hopefully we can provide a stop-gap, bringing some order into the chaos while the bureaucratic system gets into gear.

“The families we are helping are working hard and doing the best they can.”

The foodbank, which is entirely manned by volunteers, provides food parcels for single people or families to last three or four days. Made up of basic store cupboard essentials, there are tinned and dried goods, including UHT milk, sugar, veg and fruit.

When donations of fresh food are received these are also handed over to give people as much support as possible.

Initially 10 congregations set up the foodbank, each paying £150 towards the affiliation fee. They were: Camelon Parish, St Andrew’s West, Brightons Parish, Baptist churches in Denny, Falkirk and Larbert, Maddiston Evangelical, Larbert Pentecostal, Olivet Evangelical and the Free Church.

Initially, the plan had been to have the initiative up and running by the Spring, but demand led them to start handing out food and to date 125 children and 163 adults have been fed through the donated food.

Referrals for food parcels mainly come through Falkirk Council’s social services, who identify those in need.

A unit in Tamfourhill Industrial Estate was provided by the council with officials helping the trustees apply for a grant to cover the rent. The food is stored and distributed from here on a daily basis.

Mr Sharp said: “We’ve had a lot of support from businesses and individuals across the district. It’s lots of people doing little things and these little things make a big impact on the lives of others.

“Poverty is the silent menace that people don’t want to confess. There is despair behind the front door in many houses and we want to help restore some dignity.”

He added that it was an ecumenical movement with more congregations wanting to come on board, but they were also happy to work with people of no religious persuasion.

“If people ask us why we are providing them with help, we’ll tell them but we’ll not hammer them with the Bible. We are living the Gospel values: Jesus fed the hungry. We are trying to do the same.”