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Moray Food Plus: helping people in need during pandemic

By Chris Saunderson

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MORAY Food Plus has seen a big increase in the number of people needing help.

Between April and the end of December, it received 2158 referrals and supported 5593 people, – an increase of 24 per cent on the same period the previous year.

These figures do not include people accessing the public community larders supported by Moray Food Plus in Dufftown, Tomintoul, Lhanbryde, Keith, Lossiemouth and Burghead or the 3050 care packages distributed during the initial lockdown period last year.

Moray Food Plus operates across Moray, with 42 per cent of referrals coming from the Elgin area.

At the heart of what Moray Food Plus does is its volunteers and Gillian Pirie, volunteer development officer, paid tribute to them.

“We would like to thank all our volunteers past and present for all their hard work and dedication supporting our organisation and the communities of Moray.

Moray Food Plus' volunteer development officer Gillian Pirie.Picture: Daniel Forsyth
Moray Food Plus' volunteer development officer Gillian Pirie.Picture: Daniel Forsyth

“Our service simply couldn’t run without volunteers and we are extremely lucky to have such a fantastic team.

“We would also like to thank everyone who has enquired about volunteering, unfortunately we have had to suspend our volunteer programme due to social distancing and the current lockdown.”

“We do hope to start accepting new applicants once the restrictions ease.”

Val Treen and Lorraine Longmuir are members of the current volunteer workforce.

Val, from Forres, joined three years ago and admitted it had opened her eyes to food poverty, which has been exacerbated by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“When referrals come in they don’t have names on them but we know if they are male or female and the age ranges of any children.

“The majority of people don’t come to us through any fault of their own, they might be on zero hours contracts, on low pay or have been furloughed or lost their job,” said Val.

Volunteering has been something to focus on during lockdown, although there was a period during the first lockdown when the volunteers couldn’t come in due to coronavirus restrictions.

“It has definitely helped me. You feel as if you are doing something worthwhile.”

Val, a retired NHS clerical worker, said the current pandemic had only reaffirmed her “great admiration” for the NHS.

She fears the end of the furlough scheme could bring a fresh wave of referrals the food charity.

Lorraine Longmuir, from Elgin, a former Slimming World consultant, had made a number of donations to the food bank before becoming a volunteer.

“I knew there was a problem with food poverty. It can be people like you and me who use the service , and through no fault of their own have fallen on hard times.

“Not everybody has put something aside for a rainy day.

“It is really good to feel like you are doing something to help.”

Moray Food Plus community worker Sarah Cruden.Picture: Daniel Forsyth
Moray Food Plus community worker Sarah Cruden.Picture: Daniel Forsyth

Lorraine also enjoys the social aspect of being a volunteer, although that has been curtailed slightly with social distancing restrictions due to the pandemic, and volunteering has been a positive experience for her own mental health.

“I am proud to be involved with this, even in a small way, because it does make a big difference to people.”

She said the end of the furlough scheme will see even more demand placed on the food charity.

“People who have been managing to get by may find that money is not going to be there any more,” she said.

Moray Food Plus enables people to retain dignity at a difficult time in their lives and helps ensure the basic requirement of food is met.

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