The volunteers who run Newtownabbey Foodbank have thanked local people for their generous donations and support over the past 12 months.
Since it opened in April last year, the local church-run cross-community charity has provided food parcels for 1,676 adults and 1,384 children.
Led by Carnmoney Presbyterian Church in partnership with the Trussell Trust, Newtownabbey Foodbank is supported by 106 volunteers from a partnership of churches in the Newtownabbey area.
Local churches involved in the project include Ballyclare Presbyterian, Abbots Cross Presbyterian and Greencastle Methodist.
“We are thankful to the people of Newtownabbey for the support they give the foodbank through their donations to our Food Collection Days at Tesco, the permanent collection point at Tesco, Northcott, the congregations of churches and the colleges and schools in Newtownabbey,” said Carolyn Arnold, chair of the Newtownabbey Foodbank Management Committee. “Tesco also gives us a 30 per cent top up in money on all the food collected in their store.”
She continued: “We urgently need a small van to transport the food from the main warehouse to the satellite distribution centres, so all donations are being saved toward this aim.”
The Trussell Trust last week published shocking statistics showing that Northern Irish foodbank use has risen by 48 per cent to reach record levels, with 25,755 three day emergency food supplies provided to people in crisis by the charity’s foodbanks in the 2015/16 financial year, compared to 17,425 the previous year.
Trussell Trust data shows that, unlike many other areas of the UK, low income remains the biggest primary cause of foodbank use in Northern Ireland, accounting for 32 per cent of all referrals.
Trussell Trust foodbanks across the UK report that the main issues that cause working people to be referred are low wages, high living costs and problems accessing working benefits.
Benefit delays and changes account for 22 per cent of referrals to foodbanks in Northern Ireland, a reduction on last year’s 24 per cent.
David McAuley, CEO of The Trussell Trust said: “These figures on Northern Irish foodbank use prove that the numbers of people hitting a crisis where they cannot afford to buy food are far too high. 25,700 three day food supplies given out by our foodbanks every year is 25,700 too many. This many people needing emergency food must not become the new normal. Reducing UK hunger will require a collective effort from the voluntary sector, government, businesses and the public, and The Trussell Trust is keen to work with all these parties to find solutions that stop so many people needing foodbanks in future.”
While the Trussell Trust has reported a significant increase in foodbank use across Northern Ireland over the past 12 months, Carolyn says the number of people turning to Newtownabbey Foodbank for help has “remained steady”.
“The flow of people coming into the foodbank has remained steady over the year, with no significant increase. The main reasons for people coming into the food bank are low income or a disruption in the payment of benefits,” she explained.
“Newtownabbey Foodbank has been successful due to the generosity of everyone who donates food and the support of the volunteers who do all the hard work. We are extremely grateful for their support.”
Anyone who is struggling to put food on the table for their family is welcome to visit Newtownabbey Foodbank. Food is issued on receipt of a voucher which can be obtained from Citizens Advice Bureau, social workers, health visitors, churches, schools, Women’s Aid and other support agencies.