Cost of living hits foodbank

Cost of living hits foodbank

22 June 2022

THE cost of living crisis which is increasing the workload of the Fountain Foodbank in Downpatrick has prompted a public appeal for more donations.

Volunteers who run the highly acclaimed cross-community charity are now distributing around 25 food parcels a week to families in need — 10 more than they were handing out before the start of the pandemic.

Next weekend, volunteers will be at the Asda store in Downpatrick to receive donations to help local people who are struggling to make ends meet and will be in the entrance foyer at the Ballydugan Road store on July 1 and 2.

Foodbank volunteer co-ordinator, Shirley Lennon, said the charity is now twice as busy as it was before the global pandemic and has been fortunate to able to rely on the generosity of the public since it opened.

But she revealed that increasingly, the foodbank is dipping into its own finances to buy food for needy families as people appear to have got out of the habit of buying items and leaving them in the charity’s designated collection points.

“We feel that people have got out of the habit of buying items like a tin of beans and ping it into one of our collection trolleys or leaving it off at their local church,” said Mrs Lennon.

“We are pleased that a number of churches which support us have resumed their collections following the pandemic which is very helpful indeed and we would encourage them to keep going.”

Mrs Lennon said foodbank volunteers are keen for people to provide donations of tinned products, explaining that they have to shop for the items they need to have in stock which is becoming very time consuming.

In addition, she revealed that it is sometimes difficult for the volunteers to get their hands on large quantities of items that they need.

The foodbank co-ordinator said the cost of living crisis is having an impact on the charity and while it has not experienced the demand witnessed in other areas like East Belfast, the current economic situation is impacting on more families who are coming forward to help.

Mrs Lennon also believes there could be other families across the district who are struggling but  have not yet come forward for help.

“The increase in the cost of living is having an impact on what we do. The Fountain Foodbank is twice as busy as it was before the coronavirus pandemic,” she continued.

“We have particularly noticed over the past month and a half that we are busier than ever before. Currently, we are distributing an average of 25 parcels a week to families in need. Pre-pandemic, we were distributing between 12 and 15 parcels which gives an indication of the increase in demand.”

As the charity works to meet that demand, the foodbank requires a number of basic items including

tinned beans, soup, fruit and meat. It  has also been distributing a selection of toiletries and while more than happy to do so, the items are expensive.

“We have also been distributing soap and cleaning products like washing up liquid, while items like pasta and rice have gone up in price,” said Mrs Lennon. 

“While we have funding, it is costing us more to buy these particular items for people. And we always find ourselves short of long-life milk.”

Mrs Lennon hopes people will support next weekend’s collection at the Asda store in Downpatrick which provides them with an opportunity to donate the items they require most.

“The need for basic foodstuffs and other items is increasing and we are grateful to all those who have supported the foodbank since its launch. Sadly, the need in the community remains,” she said.

The foodbank co-ordinator also believes that while the charity is helping many people, there are others across the community who are not coming forward for help.

“Perhaps they do not know how to access our service and are therefore not asking for help. If people are struggling to make ends meet or find themselves in difficult circumstances, we can help and have a number of referral partners including Newry, Mourne and Down Community Advice and St Vincent de Paul,” said Mrs Lennon.

“If people want to contact us directly they can also do so and we will then refer them top one of our partners.”