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MP thanks foodbank volunteers in Challenge Poverty week

By David Porter

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MP for Gordon, Richard Thomson has held a virtual meeting with staff and volunteers from Aberdeenshire North Foodbank as part of ‘Challenge Poverty Week’.

The group discussed their experiences working at the foodbanks and warehouses across Gordon during the pandemic.

Experiences ranged from assisting families which had previously been donating to the foodbanks but had since lost their jobs or were unable to survive on a single ‘furlough’ wage; to delivering food packages to those who had been reluctant to take up the support offered.

Statistics from the Aberdeenshire North Foodbank show a substantial increase in recent referrals.

In Huntly, between March 16 and October 6 there was a 38 per cent increase in referrals compared to the same period in 2019.

Inverurie similarly saw a 38 per cent increase, while Ellon faced a 217 per cent increase.

With support from the public, staff have been able to maintain stock levels but with winter approaching, the end of furlough support and a slow decline of smaller, community foodbanks, there is concern for what may happen in the future.

MP Richard Thomson has praised the efforts of local foodbank volunteers.
MP Richard Thomson has praised the efforts of local foodbank volunteers.

Commenting after the meeting, Mr Thomson said: “The three main foodbanks in Gordon have fed almost 2000 people since March 16 and I commend and thank the staff, the volunteers and everyone who has donated for making all of this possible.

“The effects of the virus allied to the North Sea downturn have combined to create real problems for many north-east families, with even those fortunate enough to be in work sometimes only one or two missed pay-cheques or a major household expense away from finding themselves in significant financial difficulties.

“Foodbanks are not solely about food - they highlight the larger issue that many may need this support so they can use limited resources to cover other necessary household expenditure like mortgages, rent and utilities as best they can.

“Too many people have been missed out by the government support schemes of the past few months.

"While I will continue to do all I can to rectify that, It’s important to recognise the work of the Aberdeenshire North Foodbank and other third sector organisations in helping people through what continues to be an extraordinarily difficult period.”

During the virtual meeting, praise was also given to the businesses and members of the public who are continuing to donate and the bodies such as Aberdeenshire Council which have helped the foodbanks cope with the new challenges.

Aberdeenshire North Foodbank manager Debbie Rennie said: “It was a positive opportunity to meet with Mr Thomson today.

"It allowed our dedicated volunteers to speak about the experiences of the people who are using our foodbank and help us all think about how we can offer support, which the Challenge Poverty Week has really highlighted.

"The unprecedented measures implemented by the Government have protected many people from being swept into financial hardship and destitution, but without changes this autumn, our forecasts suggest destitution is likely to rise significantly by the end of the year. Factors such as maintaining the Universal Credit £20 uplift will make a huge difference to people's lives and we would encourage this.

“We would also encourage anyone who is finding it difficult to buy food for themselves or their family to consider asking for support rather than going hungry or getting in debt.

"We would always argue for a ‘cash first’ approach and would encourage people to see if they are eligible for support from the Scottish Welfare Fund, but if not, then to seek a referral to us – they can contact Citizen’s Advice, a support worker you may have or a health professional and they can discuss a referral.”

Further information on ‘Challenge Poverty Week’ is available here: https://www.challengepoverty.net/

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