Foodbank Campaign: 'I was in tears at harrowing stories of genuine need'

WHEN the community in Dennistoun noticed a lack of foodbanks in their area they decided to take the matter into their own hands.

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Foodbank organisers say they are busier than ever
Foodbank organisers say they are busier than ever

Leaders at the Everlasting Arms Church set up the monthly life-line service in October last year and have already fed more than 400 people.

Dr Craig Donaldson, 31, a research fellow at Strathclyde University, is one of the organisers.

He told the Evening Times: "When we started out it took a while for the word to get out and then it just exploded.

"We had no idea how busy it would become.

"The foodbank is on track to have handed out more than 1000 bags of food in a year."

The foodbank opens from 1pm to 4pm on the first Saturday of every month and it feeds an average of 82 people in these three hours.

Craig, from Bearsden, said: "Some of the people who visit have harrowing stories to tell.

"At the end of the first day I was in tears, listening to the hardship that these people are facing.

"The majority of the people who come, 65%, are unemployed and many have had their benefits sanctioned.

"There was one man who had £4 to live on for three weeks.

"It is just impossible."

Craig said the foodbank also sees people who are elderly, as well as those suffering from mental health problems, and drug and alcohol abuse but said they don't see many homeless people.

He said: "We don't operate a system where the users have to be referred to us by another agency such as the Job Centre.

"We feed all those who come to us.

"If they say they need help we believe them.

"And I haven't come across anyone who I think is trying to abuse the system.

"There is a genuine and dire need.

"It is a difficult decision to make to use a foodbank and many people are embarrassed.

"We allow them to use the foodbank for as long as they need to but most people use the service no more than three times."

The Everlasting Foodbank gives bags of non-perishable food which is donated by the church and local community.

The donations are also supplemented by fresh bread and cakes, donated regularly by the Hovis factory in Dennistoun.

l The Everlasting Food Bank, 12 Whitehill Street, Dennistoun, Glasgow, G31 2LH. Opens on the first Saturday of the month, 1pm to 4pm. Contact Dr Craig Donaldson 07981 122335.

THE card addressed to "Audrey and all the other Angels" thanking them for "kindness and help" sits on a shelf in the Govanhill foodbank.

It reads: "My first visit was quite distressing for me but you were so kind and put me at ease and made me feel better about myself."

The South East Foodbank, in Govanhill, is one of four run by the Trussell Trust in Glasgow and their longest-running and busiest in the city.

The foodbank fed 659 people in the city in 2012. That figure shot up to 4304 last year.

This client was just one of an increasing number, forced to turn to the life-line or go hungry.

Manager Audrey Flannagan said: "The situation is getting worse, not better.

"The main reason people come to us is benefits issues and sanctions.

"And the sanctions are getting tougher and tougher."

She added: "We had a single mother in here who had was looking for work and had been attending appointments at the local Job Centre.

"She secured an interview for a job which was set up by the Job Centre. They also gave her a voucher to buy clothes for it.

"So, she went to the interview but because of the timing she missed an appointment.

"She was sanctioned."

As part of the Trussell Trust network, the foodbank benefits from the support of the charity.

Hungry people are referred to them via agencies including the Job Centre.

The foodbank also serves those in dire need in the Roma community.

Audrey said the levels of poverty faced by these families is shocking.

The desperate turn up before the foodbank opens, queuing outside with empty suitcases and prams to carry their rations home.

But as well as the familiar faces, every day that the foodbank is open new ones arrive.

Men in suits, single mothers and families are among those newly driven to live off handouts.

l The Glasgow South East Foodbank, 173 Butter-biggins Road, Govanhill, Glasgow, G42 7AS. Opens Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 1pm to 2.30pm. Contact 0141 423 2418.

A CHANCE meeting with a former colleague who had fallen on hard times led community leaders to consider setting up a foodbank.

Three years ago Jamie Watters, senior pastor at Glasgow Westend Vineyard, who used to be an engineer, met an ex-work mate by chance who had "fallen through the cracks".

Jamie said: "His company had gone into receivership and, to cut a long story short, it was a choice between eating or putting on the electricity.

"We helped him and we realised that there were a lot more people like him."

The church began working with the charity Starter Packs, which helps provide recycled household items to give people a fresh start in life.

However, they realised there was a high number of people going hungry and the Storehouse Foodbank was set up the following year, in 2011.

Around 80 volunteers and church staff feed roughly 50 families - some 200 people - a week.

The organisers have recently used church funds to refurbish the premises of the foodbank to streamline their services.

The foodbank is led by the church's compassion pastor Peter Fowler. It recently expanded to open two days a week.

Peter said: "The need is out there - and it continues to grow so we are trying to address that."

As well as food, Storehouse can also provide essential toiletries and clothes to the people who need it.

Although Storehouse will never turn away anyone, organisers work with hundreds of agencies who use referral vouchers to point users in the direction of the foodbank.

Jamie said: "We have always operated foodbanks in some form - like soup kitchens or food exchanges. But there became a greater necessity for food banks in Glasgow.

"We had one child of about 16, whose father had died. The school had actually referred him on to us because he wasn't able to eat.

"He wasn't old enough to claim benefits.

"We are seeing cases like that more and more. People who have just fallen through the cracks."

Jamie says the volunteers also offer advice on financial problems and other issues.

He said: "The way we work is, it's a hand up, not a hand out."

l The Storehouse Foodbank, Vineyard Centre, 4 Linden Street, Anniesland, G13 1DQ. Opens Wednesday 1.30-3pm and Saturday 9am - 11am.

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