Student nurses helping to fight Covid in the north are turning to food banks to put meals on the table.
Inverness Foodstuff is one of dozens of organisations who have rallied to support vulnerable members of society during the pandemic.
The organisation, based at Ness Bank Church, has seen demand for support more than triple over the last 12 months.
Operations manager June Macleod yesterday revealed that the requests were coming from people who are working – and yet still struggling to afford food.
And she said it “breaks her heart” that some nurses risking their lives working on the coronavirus front line are among that group.
Ms Macleod said: “It’s a sad time. We are seeing a lot more furloughed workers coming through, and people who are in work.
“We have student nurses coming to us.
“A few of them are third year students so they are taking shifts in hospital and are part of the teams helping in this ongoing Covid effort – yet they can’t afford to put a meal on the table.
“It just kills me to think that these guys are literally putting their lives on the line and then they are asking us for food.
“Make no mistake, it’s a privilege to be able to help but it just shouldn’t be necessary.
“People are under enough pressure as it is. Going to work is a stress because you are dealing with potentially Covid-positive patients and the last thing you need to be stressing about is how to feed yourself and your family.”
Inverness Foodstuff operates three days a week, providing help and support through a range of services as well as nutritious hot meals to vulnerable and homeless individuals across the city.
During the first lockdown, the organisation dished out thousands of meals every month as demand for the service soared.
Ms Macleod added: “During the first lockdown, free delivery slots were as scarce as hen’s teeth.
“At the height of the pandemic last year, we were operating five days a week and doing 200 meals day.
“In April last year we did 3,604 over the course of that month.
“In the first week of January this year, we put out 78 meals which is alright. Last week we put out 201 across the three days.
“I’m hoping that the furlough scheme will be extended because I think once it ends we are going to see a rise again.”
The manager praised her team of volunteers for their dedication in supporting those in need.
She said: “I feel so lucky. I have a fanatic team who work very, very hard.
“I know some of our people who are not volunteering with us just now, not through choice but because we can’t have them in for health reasons, are desperate to get back.
“For myself as well, I cannot wait until restrictions end.
“I’m actually shielding myself so I’m not able to be there which is killing me.
“I miss it terribly. I’m a people person so I want to see my guys, I want to be front-facing, but staying away is a necessary evil right now.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “This year the Covid-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on all of us, and we are extremely grateful to our highly skilled nursing students for their extraordinary hard work, dedication, skills and commitment.
“All eligible students in Scotland receive a non means tested bursary of £10,000 a year and can apply for other allowances such as childcare and dependents allowance.
“This is in addition to the free tuition for eligible undergraduate students, placement expenses, uniforms, disclosure and health checks that the Scottish Government provides. This is the highest nursing student support package in the UK.
“Those students who are experiencing financial difficulties can apply to the Nursing and Midwifery Discretionary Fund, which can provide assistance with general costs including housing, as well as a number of allowances targeted for specific groups. This funding is administered by individual colleges and universities.
“We recognise that the current situation has been difficult for students and we continue to work closely with the Nursing and Midwifery Council, NHS Education for Scotland and universities to ensure students are supported to complete their programmes.”