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Inverness Foodstuff hopes to address childhood trauma in new year’s initiative

Inverness Foodstuff will use the Conversation Cafe to help those with addictions address possible adverse childhood experiences.
Inverness Foodstuff will use the Conversation Cafe to help those with addictions address possible adverse childhood experiences.

While Covid-19, Brexit and rising fuel and food prices have made the future uncertain, they have also brought communities together.

Inverness Foodstuff, based at Ness Bank Church, is open three days a week and provides meal support and company for disadvantaged people in Inverness.

Services including housing and benefits advice, addiction advice and recovery, as well as the foodbank and cafe, are provided by the charity which was set up in 2015

As a result of the pandemic, Inverness Foodstuff’s cafe was forced to close.

This did not stop a pared-down group of volunteers operating a food stall outside the church every week from March 2020 until October 2021 when the cafe reopened.

Meals, surplus food and clothing were still being given out during that period.

Rev Fiona Smyth, chairwoman of the charity and minister at Ness Bank Church, said: “When we went into lockdown last year, Highland Council enabled us to remain open as an essential service.

“In October we reopened the cafe and that has been such a lifesaver for people because what they missed, although we provided care packages at the height of lockdown, was the social aspect.

“There’s a real sense of life and laughter back in the place so that tells me that the heart of us is back together again.”

Volunteers at Inverness Foodstuff are on hand with a hot meal and open ears.

Having come out of lockdown, the charity now employs an operations manager to lead the 100-strong group of volunteers including six former users of the service.

Since reopening there has been a sharp rise in business from providing 343 meals in October to 569 in November.

Inverness Foodstuff makes it a priority to “accept” those coming through the door and to “build relationships of trust”.

A focus on “respect and mutuality” is what the charity aims to achieve in the city.

It also helps those volunteering to better understand those who use the service and the complex issues they face.

Inverness Foodstuff is more than a foodbank

One of the main focuses of the organisation in 2022 is to help those suffering from unresolved childhood trauma through Conversation Cafes.

The sessions aim to help those in addiction recovery to address potentially painful experiences during their childhood.

Rev Smyth added: “I am very excited for the work being done for the Conversation Cafe event around adverse childhood experiences (ACES) and how we build resilience.

“We are also looking at how we can facilitate our participants own stories by which I mean the antidotes to their trauma and the things that have helped them.

“Providing people with a safe space and also as we listen to one and other stories barriers are broken down.

“So their stories around food, play and exercise, all the soft stuff that we never measure when we look at the benefits of projects with people.

“I think we will glean a lot from that, that actually at the heart of what we are providing is what actually people need. That is the transformative aspect of Inverness Foodstuff.

Helping people with debt

Another project to be set up in the new year is a partnership with the Citizens Advice Bureau to help people who require advice on money and debt issues.

It will benefit many patrons as while some have a tenancy, the rising costs of fuel and food are making it harder to live without turning to support.

While Inverness Foodstuff can help with food and supplies, they do not have debt advisors who help people resolve their finances.

Rev Smyth added: “We are in a very challenging time with rising food and fuel bills and there are still questions about work and what jobs are available.

“We are still living through this pandemic and there is a sense that come January people will be pretty low.

“That is why creating the right atmosphere is so worthwhile for all of us and that people know they are not going to be judged.

“There is still a lot of shame associated with debt and stigma involved with why people have gone down particular paths.

“People have come together and the help that they have given each other is like a silver thread lighting up the darkness and by working together we can make a difference to all of our lives.”

The Press and Journal, Evening Express and Original 106 have been working to raise awareness of the help available through foodbanks, and the various services they can provide.

We want to debunk some of the myths around who can use these services, and keep the conversation about food poverty in the spotlight.

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

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