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Figures reveal 3.1 million meals distributed by foodbank in last 18 months – as charity bosses back our Big Christmas Food Appeal

Families across the north and north-east are bracing themselves for a challenging winter as the cost of living continues to soar.

With supply issues and rising energy costs already a worry for many, confirmation from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) this week that the cost of living has soared at its fastest rate in almost a decade will hardly be a surprise.

Foodbank bosses in the north of Scotland are already expecting demand to be “incredibly high” in the coming months and are determined people will not have to make the choice between eating or heating.

And today, the Press and Journal, Evening Express and Original 106 are launching The Big Christmas Food Appeal to support that effort.

We’ve teamed up with Cfine – which distributes food across Grampian, the Highlands and islands from its warehouse in Aberdeen – and hope our readers and listeners will help get support to those most in need, either by donating to our appeal page or buying an item from the charity’s specific shopping list.

‘Massive increase’ in demand for food and advice

Graeme Robbie, development manager at Community Food Initiatives North East (Cfine), admitted it would be a challenging winter for many.

Last year, foodbanks experienced an unprecedented increase in demand as people young and old struggled with the impact of Covid.

Cfine had to close its foodbank at Poynernook Road and instead developed a home delivery service in partnership with Aberdeen City Council.

Mr Robbie said: “Obviously, the biggest challenge has been Covid-19 over the last 18 months, we responded with a huge amount of support going out to communities, including provision of food.

“But also, access to financial advice, budgeting, benefits, so we saw a massive increase for our services over that period.”

The organisation also operates FareShare locally, which involves surplus in-date food that would otherwise go to waste being redistributed to charities and organisations.

New figures have revealed that between 2020 and 2021, demand for emergency food from FareShare doubled across the north and north-east.

Last year, Cfine delivered a total of 1,314.2 tonnes of surplus food – the equivalent of 3.1 million meals – across the seven local authorities, meanwhile, between 2019-2020 they supplied 591 tonnes across the area.

Highland experienced the biggest increase in demand, with FareShare delivering 1,265.4% more food between 2020 to 2021 than the previous year.

Cfine used e-cargo bikes to deliver thousands of meals across the city during lockdown. Picture by Kath Flannery.

Although the demand for food is not expected to return to pre-pandemic levels by next year, it will still remain high. It is predicted that Cfine will distribute 989.6 tonnes of food.

It is also expected that the demand for food will increase slightly in Moray, the Western Isles and Shetland by next year.

Cfine is a ‘lifeline’ to many

Mr Robbie said: “We have seen an increase in prices recently which has an impact on people’s budgets and we’ve also seen the reduction by £20 of the Universal Credit payment. This all works towards increased challenges for those who may already be struggling.”

He added that the increase in energy bills is also having a major impact on the people accessing Cfine’s services.

Across the last 18 months, over three million meals were distributed by Cfine through FareShare.

It has been predicted that this will drop to around 2,300,000 meals being delivered by the network by next year, which is 64% higher than between 2019 and 2020.

Mr Robbie explained that demand is still “incredibly high” and is encouraging people to support the Big Christmas Food Appeal.

He said: “I think Cfine has been a lifeline for many people over the years, as challenges like the pandemic have shown, they’ve shone a light on food insecurity and the need for these services.

“People often talk about food poverty or fuel poverty, to us, it’s all poverty, it’s all the same issue, often with the same underlying problems that we need to address.

“The last 18 months have been incredibly tough on families right across the regions, unfortunately, we don’t see this coming to an end anytime soon. Getting involved in this appeal is a really good way to support those in need.”

For more information, or to get involved with The Big Christmas Food Appeal, click here.

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