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Demand at meals programmes falls as Covid-19 problems ease

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Leading the flock: the Reverend Alistair Bennett helps out in the kitchen at Christ Church, Warwick (File photograph)

Church-run food banks have seen a significant drop in demand after the pressures of coping with the economic crisis sparked by Covid-19.

However, the number of people still needing help is “significant” with the pandemic highlighting many people’s fragile finances.

David Thompson, who heads the food programme at the Church of Scotland’s Christ Church in Warwick, said that the church went from the preparation of 3,500 meals a week at the start of the pandemic to about 1,200 meals a week at present.

But he admitted that demand had gone on for much longer than anticipated – and caused some church volunteers to quit because of burnout.

Mr Thompson said: “Many volunteers had been at this for a year and wondered if there was an end in sight.”

He estimated that the programme had provided 130,000 meals since the start of the pandemic.

Mr Thompson said that many of those in need were work permit holders left without an income because of pandemic lock downs.

But he added that many had since either left the island or found employment elsewhere.

Mr Thompson said that the church now offered meals four times a week instead of every day and tried to target people in “absolute need”.

He said: “We did find at one point that people would say ‘if you want a free meal go to Christ Church’, so we had to do something to stop that.

“We did a bit more digging into what the need was and made sure we were reaching the right people without prying too much into their private lives.”

But Mr Thompson emphasised that, despite demand being cut to almost a third of its peak, the number of people who needed assistance was still “quite a significant number”.

He said the church’s involvement in a 2020 meals programme organised by Butterfield Bank and The Loren hotel had helped spark a high demand for assistance.

Mr Thomson added the pandemic had thrown a spotlight on to how fragile financial security was for many people on the island.

He said: “There were always people in need, but I don’t think many of us were as aware of it as we are now, so I think through Covid we’ve learnt that people are still struggling economically.”

He added: “It’s great to hear people who received food come to us later not only just to say thank you but to tell us ‘I’ve found a job now and I don’t need your meals any more’.

“That really warms the heart.”

Hamilton Seventh-day Adventist Church (File photograph)

Dora Baker, the acting director of Seventh-day Adventist community services on the island, said that the demand on its meals programme had more than halved since the pandemic first hit.

She said that church programmes in St David’s and Hamilton used to provide 200 meals a day about three days a week.

They also used to hand out groceries and food vouchers after they heard “some of the people were literally fasting until the next day we provided a meal”.

Ms Baker said that the need for assistance started to fall around the end of last year and that its programmes could now be serving as few as 100 meals a week.

She added that fewer people were available and that funding had also dropped since the height of the Covid-19 crisis.

Ms Baker said: “The need has gone because we do not have access to the kinds of finances that were available during the peak of the pandemic.”

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Published March 08, 2022 at 7:34 am (Updated March 08, 2022 at 7:25 am)

Demand at meals programmes falls as Covid-19 problems ease

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