Food bank co-or­di­na­tor’s heart-break­ing sto­ries of peo­ple fight­ing the poverty trap

Lennox Herald - - NEWS - Lor­raine Weir

Caro­line Mars­land says she can have any­one she speaks to in tears within eight min­utes.

Ev­ery day, the Food For Thought co-or­di­na­tor hands out food parcels to hun­gry peo­ple in des­per­ate need across the com­mu­ni­ties of Dumbarton and Alexan­dria.

A man forced to walk six miles for a meal af­ter his ben­e­fits were sanc­tioned, a mother left with noth­ing af­ter flee­ing abuse, and a tear­ful dad dev­as­tated be­cause he can’t af­ford to feed his fam­ily - th­ese har­row­ing sto­ries lay bare the dire sit­u­a­tion in West Dun­bar­ton­shire which Caro­line fears will get even worse when new ben­e­fits sys­tem, Univer­sal Credit, is rolled out next year.

In May, Food For Thought started up its Community Soup ini­tia­tive giv­ing out free lunches twice a week to those need­ing fed or crav­ing com­pany.

One man from Rosshead has been walk­ing six miles to the Dumbarton church from his home and back ev­ery Wed­nes­day and Thurs­day for the past eight weeks while he has no ben­e­fits hav­ing been sanc­tioned.

And he will con­tinue to do so at least un­til his ben­e­fits are up and run­ning again just so he has had some food on those days.

Sadly, a mas­sive por­tion of the re­fer­rals Food For Thought re­ceive from the 58 agen­cies which they work with come through on a Friday af­ter­noon with peo­ple at risk of go­ing hun­gry all week­end.

And that is why the ser­vice runs at all hours of the day to make sure that peo­ple aren’t pun­ished be­cause they are go­ing hun­gry at the wrong times.

Rev­erend Kenny Macau­lay, rec­tor at St Au­gus­tine’s told us: “There have been times when our vol­un­teers have had to go out at 2am when we’ve got a call from po­lice that some­one is in tem­po­rary ac­com­mo­da­tion be­cause they es­caped do­mes­tic abuse and have ab­so­lutely noth­ing. It’s so im­por­tant, es­pe­cially if they’ve got a baby, to get to them quickly.”

Caro­line added: “Peo­ple are only find­ing out on a Friday af­ter­noon their ben­e­fits aren’t there when they go to the Post Of­fice. They will then phone cri­sis loans or some­body else and they will re­fer them here oth­er­wise they’re go­ing to have no food over the week­end.

“With Univer­sal Credit com­ing in, it’s go­ing to get to the point where we can’t fa­cil­i­tate the need. Peo­ple are go­ing to strug­gle be­cause of the amount of time it takes for peo­ple to get as­sessed and the fact peo­ple aren’t used to get­ting a monthly wage.”

Food For Thought gives out 191017FREE_LUNCHES_004 emer­gency aid to around 50 peo­ple ev­ery week and with ap­prox­i­mately 35 get­ting their lunch served to them each Wed­nes­day and Thurs­day, they are feed­ing 120 peo­ple ev­ery sin­gle week.

Speak­ing about pro­vid­ing lunches to those who are hun­gry or those who may not have any other hu­man con­tact that day, Caro­line said: “We knew the need was there but we didn’t ex­pect the num­bers.”

The Fair Food Trans­for­ma­tion Fund gave the char­ity the money to run Community Soup and Marks and Spencer in Dumbarton chose the or­gan­i­sa­tion as its char­ity of the year, pro­vid­ing in­gre­di­ents for the soup, bread and rolls served each week.

How­ever the fund­ing is only up un­til the end of March next year. Kenny said: “Where we get money af­ter that we don’t know.

“Does the cri­sis we face in March frighten me? It gives me cause for con­cern but the way the community has re­sponded in the past, I have got faith.

“The whole Food For Thought project has al­ways been a project where we won­der where the next month’s fund­ing is com­ing from. We are al­ways on the edge.

“There are a lot of peo­ple in West Dun­bar­ton­shire who are pad­dling, some who are sink­ing and some who have sunk.

“Peo­ple take a view that as long as they are out of sight, they are out of mind. Tack­ling that’s a big part of this project and a big part of what we do.

“We like to put a smile on their faces and show that some­body cares for them. We try to give peo­ple a bit of dig­nity back in their lives.”

The modest food pack­age handed out to those in cri­sis con­sists of ba­sic in­gre­di­ents for three days worth of break­fasts, lunches and din­ners for a sin­gle per­son but it will be sup­ple­mented with more food if there are ad­di­tional peo­ple in the fam­ily.

It will also be sup­ple­mented by fem­i­nine hy­giene prod­ucts if there are fe­males in the fam­ily or with nap­pies and for­mula if ba­bies are in­volved.

Kenny added: “The sad­dest thing is see­ing fa­thers who have man­aged to look af­ter their fam­ily and feed them and care for them sud­denly put in a po­si­tion where they’re hav­ing to come to a food­bank for the first time in their lives with tears run­ning down their cheeks be­cause they feel like they are to­tal fail­ures. It breaks my heart.

“I like to think peo­ple come to St Au­gus­tine’s for a fam­ily with wel­com­ing arms, not just Food For Thought or lunches, but if peo­ple have got a need of any sort, we cater for them.

“There’s no strings at­tached.”

Dire need Caro­line Mars­land with a vi­tal food

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.