A Moray food bank has been forced to close one of its bases – to pool its resources to meet growing demand.
The region’s only food bank is experiencing its busiest ever year, with families struggling to cope with the roll-out of Universal Credit.
Now the team has decided to close its storehouse in Keith to enable them to cope with the influx of referrals from their headquarters in Elgin.
The storehouse managed all the referrals for the town, but stock levels have depleted so much that the team decided to consolidate it all in one place.
Chairwoman Kathy Ross stressed the move does not mean families in the Keith area will now have to travel to Elgin to receive their food parcels.
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She said: “Our food bank service will continue to run in Keith exactly as it does across the rest of Moray.
“Requests for food parcels received before noon are processed and packed by our team of dedicated volunteers, and volunteer drivers deliver to drop off points in every part of Moray.
“We can assure everyone that people have never had to travel to the Elgin food store, and that we have always delivered right across Moray.”
And with Christmas fast approaching, volunteers are appealing for donations of basic items such as cereal, UHT milk, and tinned goods.
Gillian Pirie, volunteer development officer at Moray Foodbank, said: “This time last year I started out as a volunteer and I have personally seen the difference in that time – from the rise in food referrals to the low levels of stock due to the high demand.
“The reasons for the increase in demand lately has mainly been the roll out of Universal Credit, with payments taking up to five weeks, possibly more, depending on circumstances. People are finding it hard to spread their money out and pay bills as well as put food on the table.
“We find the demands on food banks increase at Christmas due to children being at home in the holidays increasing the family food bills. The roll out of UC around this time will mean some payments for UC won’t be paid till after Christmas.”
To donate, or to volunteer with Moray Foodbank, visit the website or pop into the Elgin High Street.
Helping those in need
Moray Foodbank has helped feed more people so far this year than throughout the whole of last year, supplying 2,875 people in 2018 compared to 2,759 last year.
Many of those are repeat customers, as the figures show a drop in the number of referrals from 1,929 last year to 1,428 this year.
The introduction of community larders in various localities throughout the region has also helped with the reduction of referrals.
Overall, food bank use in Moray increased by almost 20% in the last year while statistics for the whole of Scotland also experienced a stark rise with numbers increasing by 15%.
Those figures were supplied by the Trussell Trust, who run a network of over 420 food banks across the UK.
Food bank providers blamed government cuts for the rise, claiming the increase is largely due to the in-built minimum wait of five weeks for a first payment for those put on Universal Credit – with many more people forced to wait even longer than five weeks.
More than three quarters of respondents in a survey, run by Unite the Union, of over 1,000 Universal Credit claimants said that they had been put into debt, or pushed further into debt by UC with some forced to use food banks to survive as well as borrowing from friends and family.