Larne’s foodbank has assisted 135 people in crisis – including 52 children – since its inception less than four months ago.
The service, launched on March 22, is designed to help those who are struggling to feed themselves and their families. A number of local churches joined forces to set up the initiative, which provides free food to people in desperate need.
Those who turned to the foodbank for help did so for a number reasons, with 32 per cent of people citing changes to benefits and benefit delays.
Other factors included low incomes (30 per cent), homelessness (10 per cent), domestic violence and sickness (both five per cent).
And while the number of people availing of the service locally may seem startling, foodbank coordinator Alan Turner told the Times that he and his team of volunteers have the capacity to help may more people in need.
He added: “Some people can be quite embarrassed, even ashamed about having to turn to the foodbank for help; especially the older generation, who tend to be very proud.
“But the reality is that many people are in dire financial straits, with some even being faced with the choice between buying food or heating their home.”
“Our message to these people is simply this; we are here to help.”
In order to obtain food from the foodbank, clients must have a voucher issued by organisations such as social services, Women’s Aid and the Simon Community.
The foodbank service relies on donations of non-perishable food, and various churches and businesses throughout the town act as donation points.
The food is then collected and taken to a central hub at Craigyhill Methodist Church, where it is weighed and prepared for distribution.
A minimum of three days’ emergency food is then passed on free to people in crisis.
The foodbank is seeking long-life food of the following types: milk (UHT or powdered), sugar (500g), fruit juice, tins or packets of soup, pasta sauces, tins of sponge pudding, tins of tomatoes, cereals, tins of rice pudding, tea bags, instant coffee, instant mash potato, rice, pasta, tinned meat and fish, tins of vegetables, tinned fruit, jam, snack bars.
Mr Turner said: “We are currently short on tinned meat and fish, so if anyone would have some they could spare it would be greatly appreciated.”
The foodbank scheme is supported by the Trussell Trust, a Christian charity which partners with churches and communities across the UK to help prevent people from going hungry.
Between April 1 and June 30, over 150,000 people nationwide received emergency food supplies from a Trussell Trust foodbank – a staggering rise of 200 per cent on the same period last year.
Further information at www.larne.foodbankorg.uk