Eilean Siar Foodbank recently entered its second year since its official launch in September 2013. The foodbank operates in partnership with the Trussell Trust, a national organisation who work with churches and communities nationwide.
The primary aim of Eilean Siar Foodbank over the past year has been to address and combat food poverty in the Western Isles by providing emergency food, and to help restore dignity and hope to those experiencing crisis.
All food is donated by the public, sorted by volunteers and distributed on the basis of referrals made by professional agencies and voluntary organisations such as CAB, local authority social services and health professionals. The referring agencies identify those in need and issue them with a voucher which can be redeemed at the Distribution Centre on Point Street in Stornoway.
When clients attend the Distribution Centre, they are welcomed by volunteers who engage with them, provide support and may signpost the clients to other agencies to address any underlying problems. Food is given out discreetly in generic supermarket bags and will include cereals, milk, fruit juice, soup, pasta, meat, fish, pudding and vegetables, providing balanced and nutritional meals for 3 days.
Eilean Siar Foodbank also operates a rural delivery service, when necessary, to ensure that those who are are unable to come to the Distribution Centre can also access emergency food.
Grillburger Frozen Foods Ltd have been highly instrumental in this by generously providing delivery of emergency food boxes to far-reaching areas such as Uist and Barra free of charge.
Trussell Trust statistics show an increasing need for the service offered by foodbanks nationally. Rising costs of food and fuel combined with static income, high unemployment and changes to benefits are causing more and more people to turn to foodbanks for help.
However, there are particularly rural dimensions to deprivation and poverty in the Western Isles. For example, evidence suggests that in the Western Isles, the cost of living is higher than in Scotland as a whole.
Poverty is dispersed and its presence hidden, with the prevailing culture of independence and self-reliance masking poverty. Key services are also less accessible due to the dispersed rural population.
In less than seven months from its official launch to the end of the financial year in March 2014, Eilean Siar Foodbank provided food to more than 180 individuals, 18% of whom were children.
This reflects a period when the foodbank was still developing its relationship with referral agencies and gaining recognition within the community.
While Eilean Siar Foodbank are delighted to have helped this number of people, they believe there are many more who could benefit from their assistance and so they are continually looking for ways to better reach those who are in need.
Virtually 100% of all local foodbank clients in 2013-14 were aged under 65 and yet it is widely known that there is food poverty within the elderly community.
It is proving difficult to reach this age group but the team at Eilean Siar Foodbank are confident that these barriers can be overcome with the cooperation of other organisations, community care groups and NHS professionals who, due to the nature of their work, are well placed to identify those in a genuine crisis.
Another difficulty faced by Eilean Siar Foodbank is a lack of volunteers who are available during the day. There are many people willing to offer their services but unfortunately, the majority of them work during the day and are unable to volunteer when the distribution centre is open for business.
However, these people are able to help in other areas such as stock control, administration and supermarket collections.
The foodbank has recently undergone a management transition following the departure of the Project Manager after an extended period of illness, but there is a strong core team of volunteers who are passionate about helping those in need and willing to give up their time and energy to do so.
The core team continues to meet regularly to monitor the ongoing operation of the foodbank and to discuss ways in which services can be improved and extended to better reach vulnerable people in the community.
The core team reports to the Project Board of Trustees who oversee the running of the foodbank and provide counsel when required.
On the partnership with the Trussell Trust, a volunteer at Eilean Siar Foodbank commented, “Our relationship with the Trussell Trust has proved very beneficial as their extensive operating manual, guidelines and excellent support team have been invaluable to us in running the local foodbank here in Stornoway.”
Eilean Siar Foodbank is grateful to organisations such as NHS Health Promotions and local councillors for their financial assistance. Local businesses such as DR Macleod Ltd and Grillburger Frozen Foods Ltd have also been tremendously supportive in providing storage and delivery services to the foodbank free of charge.
Tesco management and staff in Stornoway have been very cooperative and enthusiastic in their support of the foodbank, even helping with the food collections when volunteer numbers were low.
Finally, the community at large have been incredibly generous in making donations of food via local churches, supermarket collections and directly to the Distribution Centre itself. The foodbank could not operate without the kindness of individuals and groups who believe in the work and are willing to support it.
Eilean Siar Foodbank would like to thank all who have helped to make their first year a successful one and they look forward to working with the community over the coming year. They would love to hear from anyone who feels that they may be able to volunteer or from organisations who may be in a position to register as a referral agency.