Food banks warn spike in demand is imminent

A foodbank in West Dunbartonshire, which has seen demand increase exponentially during the Covid-19 pandemic has warned the worst is yet to come.

Surviving through the pandemic has been worse than the old days of the Hungry Thirties when families received food, clothes and boots and lived “on the parish”.

West Dunbartonshire Community Foodshare (WDCF) has supported 3,777 during the first 10 weeks of the Covid-19 crisis.

And while need soared by 48 per cent, their volunteer team was drastically cut from 104 to just two.

The hardworking staff at Food share and other food banks have been working around the clock to feed those forced on the breadline as a result of the pandemic but last week, they starkly warned the worst is yet to come.

Clair Coyle addressed councillors at a full West Dunbartonshire Council meeting, held over video link, with an update on their operations as she urged them to agree to the continuation of a £50,000 contingency fund.

She forecast that even more people would need to rely on the lifeline service as the impact of Covid-19 continues to hit.

Government furlough employment schemes and other assistance are due to be wrapped up come the autumn.

She said: “It is felt by the board of trustees that we have not yet seen the peak in the number of people who will be seeking support with food insecurity in the coming months.

“To meet with government guidelines regarding lockdown and social distancing, our volunteer team of 104 was reduced to two.

“This resulted in the charity having only three staff and two volunteers working within our base across the week for the first 10 weeks.

“It was felt by the board of trustees that if we had not had the staff team in place the service would have had to close. This would have had a massive detrimental effect on those living in our community affected by poverty, and those who lost jobs and income abruptly due to Covid-19.

“Thankfully, we were able to continue running a service, and in the first 10 weeks we seen the number of people seeking support increase by 48 per cent, a total of 3,777 people were supported.”

The charity has also worked alongside the council to help feed struggling residents identified by the crisis team.

Clair calculates that they will have a £43,891 shortfall until October 2022 but said they will continue to seek grant funding, while having the council fund as a back up.

Staffing numbers are secure until this time and Clair said they do not forecast any issues supporting the demand with the agreed funding.

Councillors praised foodbanks across the area for providing a vital service, admitting West Dunbartonshire Council would have been unable to provide the same level of service.

SNP council leader Jonathan McColl said: “The work that West Dunbartonshire Foodshare, Food For Thought and all the other groups which have popped up have worked extraordinarily and have been the difference between people having food on the table and not.

“We could not have provided the level of service as a council.”

Labour leader Martin Rooney commented: “Not only do they provide a quality service but during Covid-19 they have excelled themselves.

Councillor Caroline McAllister thanking WDCF and Food For Thought “for working hand in glove with the council to ensure planned and emergency food and essential supplies deliveries are getting to those who needed them.”

It agreed to continue to support WDCF and endorsed a decision taken by officers under delegated authority to provide them with £30,000 during the crisis.

An update will be brought back to the next council meeting in August which will also report back discussions held with other local food banks.

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