23 MAY 2019
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Local News

New food bank to open its doors

15 May 2019 - by By Áine Quinn

A new food bank in Newry is due to officially open its doors next week, but, due to the demand it has already started providing food packs to the public.

Volunteer group, Newry Helping The Homeless, decided to open the new food bank - which will be called The Larder - when the previous one on Edward Street closed in October 2018.

Run by the Trussell Trust, it provided almost 8,000 tonnes to a total of 836 people in the year before it closed (April 2017 to March 2018). 370 of those recipients were children.

“Over 800 families used the food bank and it was going to be a huge loss to the town,” the group’s project manager Stella Maguire told the Reporter.

“When it came out that it was closing, we had more and more people starting to contact us to see about food. 

“We contacted Community Advice at Ballybot House and they told us it was much needed. In the shortfall, they offered food to people to get them over the Christmas period but they have no food left now.

“So we had a talk to see if we facilitate this, so we moved from Canal Quay, which was a very small office and took on here and it just grew from that.”

Although the official opening date is still over a week away – May 26 – volunteers at the Mary’s Street food bank have already helped a number of people.

“Even though we haven’t officially opened, we have had lots of families and people in, referred from the likes of St Vincent de Paul and Ballybot House,” Stella said.

“This just shows how needed this food bank is by people in Newry.”

 

How it works

 

Stella confirmed that The Larder will be open from 11am to 2pm, Monday to Friday.

She told the Reporter that four food vouchers can be issued within a six-month period to one family to help them through an initial crisis, but they can also assist with future vouchers if the need arises.

“We give a three-day emergency pack and in it is a breakfast, a lunch, a dinner and biscuits,” Stella said.

“For each person in the family, the amount of food increases. If people need washing up liquid or anything else, we can also help them with that.”

Stella explained that The Larder is set up in a way that will make people feel comfortable.

“It’s very laid back and easygoing, it’s a home from home. It’s not meant to be like an office space or an office environment at all. 

“If you are coming into the food bank, you need to be allowed to keep your dignity, it’s often very heartbreaking. 

“People will come in and be offered a cup of tea or coffee. Then they will sit down and hand their voucher over. 

“The girls here will then know after reading it, how many people are in the household. They take a list, follow it and then hand the food over to the person.”

Several organisations in the area will provide vouchers for those in need of the food bank and they are: Community Advice, Ballybot House; Simon Community, Bridge Street; SPACE charity, Monaghan Street, Women’s Aid Resource Centre, Belfast Road; and Women’s Aid Refuge, Lynn Lodge, Canal Quay; PIPS Hope and Support, Mill Street; Sinn Féin office and SDLP office, Trevor Hill. 

 

Appeal for help

 

The group is appealing for local shops to get involved and act as a local drop off point.

“We are in need of any local shops that will come on board and let us have a permanent drop off point, maybe a trolly, a box or a basket,” said Stella.

“We will then advertise on our Facebook that these are the shops that you can donate dried foods to and people passing will know that this is a place that they can leave items.” 

They are also asking for volunteers to get involved.

“We always need people to come in here. The day for food collections is going to be on a Wednesday from 11am to 2pm. Anyone who receives a food voucher will then know to come in on that day.”

 

Clothing

 

The food bank also stocks clothing as well as food items.

The group needs donations of men, women and children’s clothes, uniforms in good condition (blazers, jumpers, shirts, trousers and skirts) and comm outfits for both boys and girls.

“We take all clothing but at the moment, we are looking for comm dresses and suits,” said Stella.

“The children are just finished with them and we will take them for next year’s comms. We accept their headdresses, shoes and everything else.”

Stella added that the group is thinking of holding a pop-up shop once a month so that everybody in the town can avail of the clothes: “We have loads of clothes left over that maybe we won’t give away here but may be appropriate for someone else here.

“There are always loads of handbags and fancy dresses and shoes available.

“We just thought, for example, that some people may have interviews and want a new suit but can’t afford it so we’re here to help. We will be selling items at very low prices – a pound an item or three pounds a suit, something like that.”

 

Official opening

 

The official opening of The Larder will take place on Sunday, May 26 and Newry Helping the Homeless is extending an invitation to everyone.

“We’re inviting people over to see what it’s like because many people have expectations of what a food bank looks like,” Stella said.

“It’s to let people see what it looks like and to see who can avail of it. It’s not just for homeless people. People have the assumption that we only deal with homeless people but we don’t, it’s for everybody.”

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