Levenmouth Foodbank marks two years of helping those in need

Scott Rodger, Leighanne Bell, Alison Nelson (Leven Foodbank), Peter Casey and Donna Donnelly.
Scott Rodger, Leighanne Bell, Alison Nelson (Leven Foodbank), Peter Casey and Donna Donnelly.

In just a couple of weeks, Levenmouth Foodbank will mark two years since it opened its doors.

In that time, the service has helped 2615 adults and 1146 children from the local area, while handing out 30 tonnes of food – that’s the equivalent of around five elephants!

Starting out with a relatively small number of volunteers, the foodbank, which is based at the Methil Evangelical Church on Bowling Green Street, now has around 45 dedicated helpers every month.

Demand for the service has been constant over the last two years, and only seems to be growing.

Figures collated by the foodbank show that 47 per cent of poeple named on the vouchers – which are issued by a number of partner agencies such as Frontline Fife and Fife Council – had to visit the service as a result of benefit changes or delays.

Of those using the foodbank, 85 per cent were aged between 25-64, while 15 per cent were just 16-24 years old.

Andrew Hutchison, treasurer, was part of the original steering group set up by Leven Baptist Church to expand their reach into the community, and told the Mail the decision to open a foodbank was definitely the right one.

“There was a lot of discussion and research into what was needed for the town, and we realised then that Levenmouth needed a foodbank.

“The last two years have been phenomenal - we were right; this is what was needed.

“And it has developed as not just a foodbank, but as a community support project.”

Alison Nelson, foodbank coordinator, has been with the project since the beginning. She works closely with the partner agencies which support the work of the foodbank, and also with Sainsbury’s supermarket in Leven, which has just recently chosen the project as its charity of the year – which it supports with fundraising events and a trolley collection – for the second year in a row.

“Providing the service here would be so much harder without the support of the staff and customers at Sainsbury’s, I don’t know if we could have managed without them.

“Most foodbanks associated with the Trussel Trust like we are have the backing of their local Tesco, and although we did get support from the Kirkcaldy shop – it was a big blow when that closed – we don’t have a local store, so we are so grateful for the support of Sainsbury’s.”

Over the last two years, customers at the Riverside Road store have donated around nine tonnes of food, which Alison said was “tremendous”.

This weekend, staff from the store will be taking part in The Big Ride 3, cycling from the shop to Cameron Toll, with all proceeds going to the foodbank.

They’ve also been running a competition with a number of the local schools which has seen pupils design a bike, with the chance of winning one in the end; the twist – the entry fee is a donation of one item of food for the foodbank.

As Andrew noted, the foodbank is no longer just a place which hands out food; it is a community hub.

Every Tuesday morning, the volunteers welcome people from the local community for a drop in cafe, and as well as a good chat and a cup of tea and something to eat, there’s also benefits and jobs advice on hand too.

“The cafe is realy helping with social isolation in the area – the number of single people who come to us is quite staggering - and it really is regarded as a safe place.”

The foodbank has also been working with local schools to educate youngsters on the work of the service and to end the stigma of foodbanks, while they will soon be offering debt advice and budgeting tips.

“Some people are only two pay packets away from needing the foodbank,” said Andrew. “It can be the break up of a marriage, losing your job, anything.”