Foodbanks That We Shouldn't Need
When out on the high street and door knocking in Dunfermline, a few folk mentioned the local Foodbank, as a vital service that I must check out, and should be supporting. I popped in for an impromptu visit on Monday, welcomed in to a warm, friendly, cafe style environment, for what is in reality a charity whose purpose comes out of extremely grim, yet, largely preventable circumstances.
I settled with a cup of tea, and was joined by Ian, one of the Trustees, who has been a key driver of the charity since setting up last September. Dunfermline Foodbank is part of The Trussell Trust, an umbrella organisation supporting foodbank charities across the UK. The Trust has been going for over 10 years, initially established to supply food to people in need in Bulgaria. This soon evolved to focus on our own communities here in the UK, the 4th most unequal country in the western world, with an estimated 13 million people living below the poverty line. Dunfermline Foodbank is now one of over 300 foodbank charities helping communities across the UK.
Volunteers at Dunfermline Foodbank on Monday 30th September
I found out first hand about the invaluable service Dunfermline Foodbank provides to local people, in crisis and facing food poverty. Ian shared with me that in his experience you can mostly distinguish two types of people who come to their foodbank. Those who come with a sense of shame at having to use a foodbank, and others who are so disempowered and marginalised from society, that they feel a sense of entitlement, from their downtrodden place in our unjust world. Regardless of peoples feelings toward having to use their local foodbank, they face a similar reality, that circumstance forces them to a place of crisis, where they have little choice over where they get their food from. It is a matter of survival.
Operating with 50 volunteers, and no paid members of staff, or any council or government funding, Dunfermline Foodbank is already firmly rooted in the community, based on the outskirts of the town, with two satellite sites to reach those further afield. All of the volunteers I met wore a friendly smile, and grocery store style uniforms. The back store was set up very much like a convenience grocery store, stocking a variety of basic tinned and dry foods, and necessities, making up a basic daily diet, of breakfast, lunch, evening meal, and a pudding.
Donations are received from appeals to locals through schools, churches, and outside supermarkets. Shoppers are invited to buy an extra item with their weekly shop, to gift to the foodbank. The supermarkets on board each gift an amount of food, to match that donated by their customers.
Anyone can end up in a food emergency, with various contributing factors at play. Including, rising cost of living, static incomes, changes to benefits, illness, underemployment and unemployment. Current economic circumstance in Scotland, and the rest of the UK, and the introduction of welfare reform in April this year has meant increasing numbers of people in our communities hit a crisis that forces them to go hungry.
People turning up at Dunfermline Foodbank more frequently than any other group of people, are young males. Almost always out of work, often fresh out of prison, and commonly with little self-worth. An all too familiar story for many young men, and women in our de-industrialised towns.
There was a real sense of humanity, dignity and justice in the foundations and spirit of Dunfermline Foodbank. Exactly what’s needed in a Scotland where our daily reality is that of deep social injustice, and extreme inequality. Dunfermline Foodbank now provides food to around 250 local people, and families in crisis each month. Extreme levels of poverty and hunger in one of the richest countries in the world, is point-blank unacceptable.
More needs to be done to ensure that everyone’s needs are met in our society, and that youth unemployment in particular, in Dunfermline and elsewhere in Scotland is at the top of all our agendas.
I am only one voice, but with your support, if elected I will work to ensure young people, and those most vulnerable in our community are protected, and given opportunity to thrive. I will work in partnership with others to boost green jobs, promote a strong local economy, and support people to live the happy, healthy, vibrant lives that every human being deserves.
You can find out more about the invaluable work of Dunfermline Foodbank, how to access their services, donate or join their volunteer team at http://dunfermline.foodbank.org.uk/