Demand for East Lothian Foodbank support at ‘levels we’ve never seen’
A “STAGGERING” rise in demand for East Lothian Foodbank’s help to “levels we’ve never seen before” saw the charity’s support for residents increase by more than 50 per cent last year, as the cost-of-living crisis hit the county hard.
The foodbank has published its figures for 2022, which show that demand for support increased by 51 per cent compared to the previous year, providing more than 100,000 meals. Support has been provided to 11,373 people, including 4,286 children.
Lucy Daniels, community participation and campaigns lead at the foodbank, told the Courier: “It has been a very busy year, with many records broken. Unfortunately, these are not records we wanted to be breaking and demand is still at a high at the moment.
“The figures we have seen have been incredible and it doesn’t appear to be slowing down any at the moment.
“We are really worried about what the future holds for the foodbank.
“There’s no short-term fix to the problem. We continue to work with community groups and the council to try and find solutions but it’s a long-term battle rather than a short-term one.
“But the generosity of the public has been incredible.
“We were almost matching 2021’s figures by the end of August last year and people were incredible in helping us.
“We are always looking for new volunteers. You don’t need any qualifications, you just need a passion to help people and a good community spirit.”
Volunteer Joyce Walker with emergency food packages at East Lothian Foodbank
In a post on the Tranent-based charity’s website, Elaine Morrison, foodbank manager, thanked the public for their support through such a challenging year.
She said: “Last year saw demand reach levels we’ve never seen before.
“We really do appreciate all the support given by so many and, although it would be impossible to name everyone, we would like to express our gratitude to all the individuals, schools, churches, businesses, organisations and community groups who have donated their time, money or parcel items to us.
“It is truly inspiring to live in a community where so many give so much and clearly care about those around them, whether they be a neighbour or a stranger.”
She said everyone at the foodbank was “worried about what the coming months will bring” as the country faced the “hardest winter yet”, adding: “At a time when we are seeing the highest demand we’ve ever experienced, please know we are so grateful to everyone in East Lothian for their generous donations of time, skills, food and money.”
Kenny MacAskill (ALBA), MP for East Lothian, said: “These are staggering figures and a number hides the hardship and misery that each and every one is.
“The workload of those at the foodbank has increased exponentially, as with energy prices and their needs likewise.
“The underlying reason, of course, is poverty, which is why benefits, pensions and wages need to rise to keep pace with food inflation. Folk need to survive and too many are struggling to heat their home or feed themselves or their families.
“In an energy-rich country and where the renewable revolution can be seen in the hills and out at sea, it’s perverse to see these figures.”
Paul McLennan (SNP), East Lothian MSP, called for the UK Government to undo its cut to Universal Credit.
He said: “The numbers published by East Lothian Foodbank are astonishing.
“The foodbank is incredible in the work it does and the local people have done their part in helping them too, and hopefully people will continue to be generous this year.
“The Scottish Government has stepped up with its Scottish Child Payment and this will help parents financially every week to feed their families.
“It’s time for the UK Government to step up too and redact the cut it made to Universal Credit. There is a clear link between this cut and people using the foodbank. We need to look after the people in our community who most need us.”
Martin Whitfield (Labour), South Scotland MSP, called for more to be done to end food poverty in the country.
He said: “These latest figures confirm that, as the cost-of-living crisis piles further pressure on households, more local people than ever are having to turn to foodbanks.
“While the East Lothian public have been incredibly generous over the years in donating food to help meet this increased demand, it is shameful that foodbanks should be needed in 21st-century Scotland.
“We must take urgent action to end the need for foodbanks.
“There is no more time to delay – ministers must stop kicking the can down the road and act now to eradicate food poverty once and for all.”
‘A difficult year’
While fellow South Scotland MSP Craig Hoy (Conservative) said: “Last year was a difficult year for many residents in the aftermath of the pandemic and with rising living costs.
“I am optimistic that the UK Government will be able to deliver its programme of halving inflation this year to ease the cost of living while growing the economy and creating better-paid jobs and opportunities for people across Scotland.
“So far, the UK Government has delivered cost-of-living payments to tens of thousands of people in East Lothian, including a £650 means-tested payment, a £150 disability payment, a £300 state pensioner payment and a £400 energy grant to all households.
“I hope that this support will continue into the coming months as needed and that the Scottish Government does its part in supporting people in East Lothian with the cost of living.”
A spokesperson for East Lothian Council added: “The cost-of-living increase makes this a concerning time for everyone but there is support available.
“The council recently allocated £758,000 to support low-income households and we have been actively working with community partners on a number of initiatives to help residents, including supporting food initiatives and running targeted local media campaigns to highlight the support available and ensure people are claiming the support they’re entitled to.
“We would urge everyone in East Lothian to take a look at the resources available on the council website or get in touch on 01620 827827 if they need more advice or support.”
Email [email protected] to get in touch with the foodbank.
East Lothian Courier