2020 presented a tremendous challenge to the organisation as it faced ever increasing demands to provide food aid at a time when there was a significant decrease donations.
Marlane Cash, coordinator of the food bank, said: “This was a very worrying trend and we recognised that we needed to adapt our normal working practices to address.
“Our normal procedure of accepting people on referral from one of our recognised referral partners would no longer work so we made it known, as widely as possible, that we would accept self-referrals from people who were in financial difficulties..
“This procedure worked well, and we have decided to maintain this system of self- referral as we are confident that without it, some people would slip through the safety net and not be able to access the help that they need.”
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The food store premises were open on two mornings each week to enable the allocation of free fresh food to anyone who needed it, and there had been plans to extend opening hours, however due to the latest Covid-19 restrictions it is now shut until the end of January at present.
To enable clients to have some control over the food that they could access vouchers are offered alongside conventional food parcels.
Marlane said: “These vouchers can be exchanged at the local supermarket and are particularly helpful when dealing with people who had specific dietary requirements we cannot readily cater for.
“All of these changes have enabled us to successfully meet the needs of those people, who in the main through no fault of their own, have needed to turn to our food bank to feed their families.
“But even so, none of this would have been possible without the generous donations of food and money which we have received throughout the year and particularly over the Christmas period.
“This was our busiest ever. During the festive season we distributed 1121 bags of food to families in the Machars area, a year on year increase of 57 per cent.”
Alongside the many individuals, the food bank wishes to thank Aldi, Sainsbury, Dumfries and Galloway Council, DGHP, Loreburn Housing, Douglas Ewart School, Minnigaff Nursey and Primary School, Penninghame Primary School, Newton Stewart Scouts, Leonard Cheshire ‘Can Doers’, Bank of Scotland, Eddie McGawMobile Tyres, Wigtown Community Shop for their support.
Machars Churches Basics Food Bank is committed to a ‘Cash first ‘ approach to food insecurity and are working with the Independent Food Aid Network to support benefit uptake strategies.
Marlane said: “We have no doubt that 2021 is going to prove to be an even more challenging year as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to disrupt all our lives. But we are confident that we can meet that challenge.
“So, to all of you wonderful people who have supported us throughout 2020, I would like to offer you my sincere and heartfelt thank you on behalf of the families that we have been able to help throughout the year. You will never know just how much your donations have meant to them.”
Requests for food aid can be made by calling 07884 370 419, emailing [email protected] visiting the Machars Churches Basics Food Bank page on Facebook.