Edinburgh Friends address food poverty

1 in 7: People in the UK who experience food poverty.

A foodbank volunteer | Photo: courtesy of the Trussell Trust

Edinburgh Quakers have said that a local foodbank where many Friends volunteer is struggling with donations for the first time.

‘Christmas is a time when people are very generous, but traditionally we’d been looking at our current supplies taking us right through to March, but already we’re looking at a situation where supplies are going to run out,’ Sheila Sneddon, food provision manager for Edinburgh Food Project, told the Friend. ‘We’re finding that donations are lower than in the past. People are still very generous but not at the levels they were a year or so ago. Meanwhile, demand is increasing significantly so the gap is bigger. People donate money too, so we can target the money to make sure we have key items.

‘For quite a few years now, a number of Friends have joined with other local churches to volunteer at the [local] foodbank,’ Friend Marilyn Higgins says in Terrace Talk, Edinburgh Quakers’ newsletter. But recent months have seen demand outstripping donations.

The situation facing Edinburgh Food Bank mirrors similar problems faced by other food banks across the UK, as the cost-of-living crisis continues. Nearly eight-in-ten food banks saw demand for their services increase in August to October 2023, compared with the same period the year before, according to one study. Yet seventy-three per cent saw donations drop. Meanwhile, ninety-eight per cent of food banks are helping people seeking support for the first time, says the research by the Independent Food Aid Network. Four in ten organisations are struggling to support people due to a lack of resources.

Charities also say they expect the situation to continue into 2024. According to the Trussell Trust’s forecasts, more than 600,000 people will need the support of its food banks, from December 2023 to February 2024, with one million emergency food parcels expected to be delivered. This equates to 7,000 people needing support each day. ‘We don’t want to spend every winter saying things at food banks are getting worse, but they are,’ said Emma Revie, chief executive of the Trussell Trust.

‘Food banks are not the answer in the long term, but while we continue to fight for the change that could mean they can be closed for good, your local food bank urgently needs your support.

‘One in seven people in the UK face hunger because they don’t have enough money to live on. That’s not the kind of society we want to live in, and we won’t stand by and let this continue. Every year we are seeing more and more people needing food banks, and that is just not right.’

According to Sheila Sneddon, ‘The food parcels are designed to be nutritionally balanced, so we have a pick list. There are always things we run short of. We often have to purchase UHT milk ourselves, as well as fruit juice and tinned meat, such as corned beef and ham, which people can easily make meals from. Other things might be tinned hot meals that can be easily stretched for a family, such as curries or stews. Things you can cook really quickly in a microwave or kettle – like super noodles – are important.’

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