At any one time there are 100 volunteers working to collect food, organise boxes and provide the logistical and organisational support to distribute food to people in crisis.
Last year the foodbank supported 3,608 men, women and children – the equivalent of 32,500 meals. This year has already seen an 39% increase in demand in referrals from frontline professional care partners.
Speaking to volunteers they were clear that the demand is not just from people who are homeless or living on social security, but that there’s been a big rise in people who are working but not earning enough to pay the bills. Volunteers were also keen to stress that people are only allowed 3 food packs in a six month period. The food bank is there to help those in crisis not to provide long term support.
It was inspiring to hear about the generous donations people have given. The foodbank works with supermarkets, banks, the City Council, housing associations, schools, churches and companies who have helped out with donations of food and financial support.
I was struck by the fact that the project is run entirely by volunteers. Although the building has been let to the project for 3 years, there are no paid staff running the food bank. Given the financial and organisational logistics of running such a distribution centre in partnership with Edinburgh charities, it makes the work of the volunteers even more impressive.
If you are keen to help fundraise or donate food to the project here’s a menu guide to give you an idea what is particularly needed. Long term the foodbank needs more corporate donors so that whenever they run out of donations they can fill in the gap and so that they can employ staff not just to keep the project going but to develop it to meet growing needs.
If your work place, trade union, or community group is keen to help out you can find contact details on the foodbank’s website.
For me the visit reinforced my commitment to work for policies to tackle poverty, freeze people’s energy bills, and above all support campaigns to end zero hours contracts, introduce the living wage for public sector contracts and build new affordable housing in Edinburgh. But meantime we should all be grateful for the fantastic commitment given by volunteers and the range of agencies and community groups who support their vital work.