The queue at the Street Life Food Bank on North Quay in Newcastle West
FOR the past two Fridays, queues have formed on North Quay, Newcastle West, waiting for the newly established food bank to open.
The queues have started shortly before 10am each Friday at the Street Life Food Bank and so far, the organisers say, scores of people have been helped with food boxes.
Last Friday alone, forty food boxes were handed out some to families, some to individuals. Each box included tinned goods, fruit and vegetables, bakery items and at least one meat item.
It is still too early to gauge the exact level of need, according to Andrew Shanks, one of the co-ordinators behind Street Life Food Bank. On the first Friday of operation, 22 people came through the door, he said. By the following Friday, this had swelled to 50 people and last Friday, the number stood at 40, which included 12 people who had not attended before. Some of these were elderly people living alone, Mr Shanks said.
For Mr Shanks and his fellow volunteers, the numbers prove the need is there and it was this need which prompted them to set up Street Life Food Bank.
“Essentially, we were aware there is an amount of food poverty in the West Limerick area. There are a number of low income families and people in need,” he said.
The food bank is an initiative of the Newcastle West Bible Fellowship, Mr Shanks continues, and runs out of their premises in North Quay.
But not all volunteers are associated with the church, he added, and before they set up Street Life Foodbank, they consulted with West Limerick Resources.
They are also linked to Food Cloud, the organisation which links supermarkets and producers with food banks and with FEAD, the Fund for European Aid which provides items such as pasta, rice and sauces.
But it is local support which makes it possible.
“We are very thankful to the local businesses and to the individuals who have donated items,”he added.
“It has been good for community spirit as people get behind it.”
Street Life Foodbank was formed as a committee of four, including Mr Shanks, and is now a registered charity.
“We rely on volunteers. Most of us are from the church but there are people from the town who are not,” he said.
Those coming to the food bank are simply asked to give a name, address and contact number.
No other questions are asked.
There is also a social element to the food bank.
“People don’t have to rush,” Mr Shanks continued. “We have tables and chairs there with tea and coffee, doughnuts and cakes.”
People can stay and chat or simply enjoy the treat. And they do.
Denis Buicke, the president of the St Vincent de Paul branch in the Newcastle West area is not surprised that dozens of people have looked for food parcels.
They have been operating a food bank for the past 18 months, distributing food parcels about once every three months.
Some 1,000 parcels were distributed last year, and Mr Buicke estimates that some 386 families were helped.