GENEROUS Moray is rallying behind a new "lifeline" initiative to help feed individuals and families in crisis.
The Moray Foodbank and emergency box scheme provides food parcels to people without the money or means to feed themselves properly.
Numbers have grown from two or three referrals a week before Christmas to an average of 15-20 a week. The busiest single week so far saw 25 food parcels delivered to people in Moray.
Moray Foodbank, which operates through Community Food Moray (CFM), has since the start of the year provided emergency food aid to more than 200 people, many of them families with children, and a quarter of them young people under the age of 24.
Welfare cuts, combined with rising food and fuel bills, housing costs, static incomes and high unemployment are being blamed for pushing more and more people into food poverty.
The biggest increase came when the welfare cuts kicked in on April 1.
Jo Roberts, development manager with CFM and a key member of the Moray Foodbank steering group, said: "The current economic climate means that more and more people are struggling to put food on the table. We have been heartened by the generosity of people throughout Moray in ensuring that Moray Foodbank is able to provide what is in fact a lifeline for people.
"Moray Foodbank is very concerned that no-one in Moray is forced to go hungry, and so far have been able to do this thanks to a concerted effort supported by individual people, a wide range of organisations, churches, agencies and businesses."
She said this support is making a "critical difference" to individuals and families in crisis.
One local volunteer, Donna Breen, labelled the need for foodbanks in Moray and Scotland as a "local disgrace and a national shame", and called on politicians to address the underlying issues behind food poverty.
More than 90% of the food given out by Moray Foodbank is donated by the public.
Murray Geddes, of Elgin Baptist Church, has been working hard to ensure that people throughout Moray have a collection point somewhere near them, and has established a number of local community points.
These community points are as follows:
Forres – Re-Boot Computer Shop, Greshop Industrial estate.
Elgin – Elgin Youth Café, Francis Place; The Northern Scot, 74-76 South Street.
Keith – REAP, 177 Mid Street.
Buckie – Buckie Yarns haberdashery shop, West Church Street.
Churches in Keith and Elgin are also accepting donations.
He has re-branded the now redundant blue paper recycling boxes as Moray Foodbank collection boxes.
Mr Geddes said: "We are pushing at an open door here. Every church I have asked, across all denominations, has agreed to take a box, and congregations are generously contributing week in, week out."
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