Glasgow food bank struggles to meet demand

BEHIND an unmarked shop front in a busy road in Govanhill desperate people are being given the basics to survive.

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  • Govanhill food bank manager Audrey Flannaghan collects supplies at the Elim Church
    Govanhill food bank manager Audrey Flannaghan collects supplies at the Elim Church
  • Govanhill food bank manager Audrey Flannaghan collects supplies at the Elim Church

Shelves lined with cereal, pasta, tinned vegetables and soup are silently scoured by volunteers who pack the food into plastic bags.

In the next room hungry people – the elderly, children, abuse victims, people suffering from long-term illness – sit on a couch waiting for the food and the relief that they won't have to worry about where their meals are coming from for the next three days.

This life-line in Govanhill is one of an increasing number of food banks across Glasgow, launched to meet a growing demand for help.

The Glasgow South East Foodbank in Butterbiggins Road is run by staff and volunteers from the nearby Elim Church and supported by the Trussell Trust.

Twice a week, on a Monday and Friday, the hungry turn up for bags of donated food.

A typical survival kit – designed to last three days – includes pasta, rice, tinned vegetables, tinned meat, squash, long-life milk, cereal, tinned fruit and even baby food and nappies, if needed.

The amount of food varies depending on the number of people in the family, and parcel sizes range from 'single person' to 'family with more than three kids'.

And the number of bags handed out is rising sharply.

The Govanhill foodbank fed 605 people last year but volunteers and staff have already fed up to 900 people so far this year.

Manager Audrey Flannagan said the situation is only getting worse. To meet the changing demand, she hopes to extend the facility and open a free soup kitchen.

She added: "I would like to see us expand to open a family unit where we could have benefits advice, health checks and cafe which would serve free soup.

"The situation isn't getting any better. We see all sorts of people from all walks of life in here. One big bill can throw a working family off course.

WELFARE reform is responsible for a large number of people who come in.

"Bedroom tax means people are forced to find extra money to live on and food is often the last thing they will buy."

Many people have gone without for days by the time they reach the food bank.

One of these is mum-of-five Karen, 37, from the Gorbals.

She was among the first people to use the food bank when it opened in December 2011.

Unemployed with five children to feed, she was struggling to get her benefits to stretch to cover food.

She said: "I would make sure I could feed the kids first but then I would find that once I had there was nothing for me to eat.

"I was planning out the kids meals and I was going without more and more.

"I would go around friends and family borrowing money to buy food. But this wasn't really helping because when I got my benefits I owed a lot of money to people. In the end I was desperate."

The mum, who now volunteers at the food bank, was referred to Audrey and her team from another charity. She added: "It was fantastic and such a relief to have a bag of food without worrying about how to pay for it."

Other recent grateful recipients include a mother and her child who have fled domestic abuse, a young family who are struggling to cope with unemployment and an elderly man whose benefits have been cut.

The Govanhill service was set up at the end of 2011 after the Elim Church was asked to feed seven families at Christmas.

AUDREY said: "I was approached by some people from social work who asked us to feed the families, 40 people in total.

"We managed to buy enough food for them all for £250.

"We then decided that this was something we needed to do to help our community and got involved with the Trussell Trust."

The national charity provided the church with the guidance to get set up and six months later the food bank was opened in Audrey's former office. The Govanhill food bank is a "crisis intervention" service, meaning that use is restricted to three visits in a six-month period.

Those who need long- term help will be given advice to help them get back on their feet.

Audrey added: "Many people are too embarrassed to admit they can't afford to feed themselves or their families. This is something we are trying to combat.

"There is no shame in asking for help."

The Govanhill food bank is open on Mondays and Fridays from 1pm to 3pm.

Non-perishable food donations can be handed in to the Elim Church in Inglefield Street.

linziwatson@eveningtimes.co.uk

Food and drink

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