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Demand for Buckie food bank remains high as Covid lockdown eases

By Alan Beresford

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A LOT can happen in a year and nowhere has that proved truer than at Buckie food bank.

There is still plenty to do for the Buckie food bank team. Pictured are (from left) Major Bruce Smith, Elizabeth Dinwoodie, Louise Campbell, Elizabeth Douglas and Major Isobel Smith. Picture: Becky Saunderson
There is still plenty to do for the Buckie food bank team. Pictured are (from left) Major Bruce Smith, Elizabeth Dinwoodie, Louise Campbell, Elizabeth Douglas and Major Isobel Smith. Picture: Becky Saunderson

Last summer we highlighted the sterling work being done at the food bank by local Salvation Army Majors Bruce and Isobel Smith and their team of dedicated volunteers.

Lockdown and furlough brought unprecedented challenges for a wide spectrum of people, with the food bank facing unheard of demand as many struggled to make ends meet.

It was a situation which prompted Major Bruce Smith to say that he had never seen anything like it in his then 29 years with the Salvation Army.

Catching up with the team again – who were honoured with an award by the Lord Lieutenants of Banffshire and Moray for their services to the community during lockdown – it is starkly clear that demand for their services has anything but dwindled as society tentatively eases its way out of Covid restrictions.

Major Bruce Smith said: "Demand has remained at a high level over the course of the last 12 months.

"We're helping an average of 60 to 70 people a week, giving out 25 to 30 food parcels. Normally at this time that would be around 13 people, so it's an incredible rise.

"The second lockdown after Christmas really didn't make much of a difference in terms of the number of people turning to us, it stayed high.

"We've got people of all ages, from young to old, and from all walks of life getting in touch with us."

The reasons behind people turning to Buckie food bank to help put food on the table are varied.

"There are a lot of different reasons people are coming in," he continued.

"We're seeing job losses as a factor more and more now that lockdown is easing.

"Previously, we saw people struggling to cope with their furlough money. If you're barely getting by on 100 per cent of a low wage then only getting 80 per cent of that will have a major impact.

"Some come regularly, others drop in an out, coming every second week or once a month. For those who come every second week, it's often because they are on benefits and things get tight towards the end of the second week before they get their next payment.

"Those who come once a month could be due to the fact they are paid monthly and they struggle during that last week.

"There's lots of reasons why people need to use the food bank. There's no sign of a lessening of that need and it demonstrates a high level of need i the local community."

Major Smith went on to praise both the food bank's volunteer team and the wider local community for their continued support.

"The volunteers have been absolutely fantastic and have learned a lot of new skills over the past year or so.

"That's not just putting parcels together but tailoring them to suit individual people, all while keeping their distance from each other while doing so.

"We've an expanded team now although the most we have in at any one time is seven. We've got four drivers – delivery is the preferred means to get food parcels to people rather than having them come in to help lower the chances of transmitting Covid. We've had a blip in Moray and we're keen to do our bit to ensure we don't have another one.

"The community support we've had has been incredible, between financial donations, food donations and offers of help. Donations are still very much welcome."

Food donations can be dropped off on Tuesday's between 11am and 2pm at the Buckie Salvation Hall on New Street.

Major Smith added: "People who feel they need the food bank can self-refer.

"We want to make it as easy as possible to access the food bank. It can be difficult enough having to use a food bank without making it even more difficult."

Those who feel they need to the services of Buckie food bank should call the Salvation army hall on (01542) 832790 in the first instance and leave a message. Contact can also be made via the Buckie Salvation Army Facebook page.

People requiring food parcels are asked to make their request by 2pm on a Tuesday to ensure they receive it that week.

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