Food for thought

Team work at the Levenmouth Food Bank; from left: Angela Scott, Cathy MacLean, Alison Nelson, Moira Wilson, Jamie Chen, Eleanor Warrender, Bill Warrender
Team work at the Levenmouth Food Bank; from left: Angela Scott, Cathy MacLean, Alison Nelson, Moira Wilson, Jamie Chen, Eleanor Warrender, Bill Warrender

It has been one year since the Levenmouth Foodbank opened its doors with the sole purpose of helping those in need in the local area.

And now, 12 months later, staff and volunteers at the centre, which operates from Methil Evangelical Church on Bowling Green Street, are marking the milestone by urging people to continue their much appreciated support.

In just 52 weeks, the foodbank has provided food to 1218 adults and 555 children in the Levenmouth area.

“That might not sound like a lot,” said foodbank convenor Alison Nelson, “but we’re only officially open four hours in a week. Of course, it would be wrong to say all of those people were helped in those four hours, because as far as possible, we will help someone during the week, but the majority were helped in that time. So when you see the numbers like that, I think it sheds some light on the situation.”

Of course, none of those people simply turned up and asked for a bag of food. Every single one of them was referred to the foodbank by one of over 30 agencies across Fife, which includes Citizens Advice and Rights Fife (CARF), Fife Gingerbread, NHS Fife, Frontline Fife and Family and Community Support.

Although around a quarter of those referred to the foodbank come from Frontline Fife, an agency dealing with people who have housing issues or are homeless, Alison is quick to note that not everyone coming to the foodbank has problems with their housing or is in receipt of benefits.

“We do have people that come here that are working and even we’re shocked at that. Obviously, there is high unemployment in this area, but people who work do come to us, that maybe are in part time work that isn’t enough to live on, or on a zero hours contract where if you don’t work, you don’t get paid. And its something that we’ve seen a growth in.”

Alison says it can take just one crisis to bring someone to their door.

“We had a family in recently who had been managing under normal circumstances, but the car broke down and they had a bill for £800 which just absolutely floored them.”

Over the last twelve months, Alison says the public have been hugely generous, donating more than 15 tonnes of food, as well as countless voucher and monetary donations too. Just last month, the foodbank received an anonymous donation of £800 worth of Morrisons and ASDA vouchers.

And nearly one and half tonnes of those donations have been deposited in the trolley which sits in the foyer of Sainsbury’s in Leven.

“That’s one which has really helped us,” said Alison. “Sainsbury’s have been fantastic and I can’t thank them enough. “There are lots of ways that people can help us, from fundraising to collection bins in their workplaces, and we’d love to highlight that, because this is affecting our neighbours and it’s about us all working together.”

Because everyone that visits the foodbank has been referred there by an outside agency, they’ve already completed the hard bit.

“We try to make it as relaxed as possible,” said Alison. “We’re not going to ask any more questions, this is not somewhere where someone has to come and explain their situation again, this is a place where the first thing we’ll ask is ‘Do you want a cup of tea?’ No matter the situation, everyone deserves to be treated with a little dignity.”

Alison recounts one story from the past twelve months which brought her, and some of the 35-odd volunteers to tears.

“A lady came in who had worked all of her life but had become unemployed. She was absolutely mortified that she had had to come, and I remember, she didn’t stop talking,to the point where it was hard to ask her questions, because I think she felt she had to explain herself.

“But just the other week, she came back and she looked so different, and she came in with £20 and said ‘I just wanted to come back and thank you because you were there for me at a time when it was really hard, and now I’m working again, I can afford to bring this.’ Physically she was just totally different, even down to how she walked, and she did say ‘You gave me more than a bag of food that day, you made me feel like a person.’ I think that’s really powerful.”

Now that the first 12 months are over, what’s next for the foodbank?

“When we initially started, we were a bit different in that we wanted to be more than a foodbank,” said Alison. “For the first year, we have concentrated on the foodbank, but now our full title is Levenmouth Foodbank and Community Support Project. So we’re looking at possibly extending what we can do in the community. We’ve established the foodbank, but that’s only one part of the project, so now we’re looking at a possible drop in.”

To mark the one year anniversary, staff and volunteers will hold a special open afternoon on September 12 with invites extended to the various partner agencies which provide support.