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From Hot Meals to Energy Vouchers: Finding Food & Warmth in West Dunbartonshire

Charities providing emergency food aid in West Dunbartonshire, have seen an increase in pensioners and working families accessing their services.

Food bank use in West Dunbartonshire | Photo by Caroline Finn
Food bank use in West Dunbartonshire | Photo by Caroline Finn

From hot meals to energy vouchers, Christmas gifts to school uniforms, baby clothes and household goods, community groups across West Dunbartonshire are digging deep to support local people struggling with the cost of living this year.

West Dunbartonshire Community Foodshare, the area’s first emergency food aid charity, was established in 2013.

There are now three charities providing this as their main service in West Dunbartonshire. In addition, many local community groups and churches provide a regular Food Pantry service and/or a Warm Space with free tea/coffee etc to help local communities.

While each service has its own criteria of how and to whom they offer support, they all report increasing number of referrals – particularly from pensioners and working families.

Clair Coyle, charity manager for West Dunbartonshire Community Foodshare, said: “We get calls from pensioners with no food in the house who are about to have their energy cut off because they can’t afford their bills. We support on average 450 people per week.

“The big difference over the past year is a massive increase in need across West Dunbartonshire and the biggest increase has been in pensioners and working families. The low wages and irregular hours mean that even with two people working, families don’t have enough disposable income for the basics.

“We’re not a poor country, it shouldn’t be like this but the money available isn’t reaching those in need.”

Pensioners in Need

And Maureen Cummings, founder of Old Kilpatrick Food Parcels and Chatty Café (OKFP), said they are also witnessing this worrying trend of more pensioner and working family households coming to them for support.

She said: “We provide 500 households – that equates to 1,500 people – with emergency food aid from our Pantry every month. Last month we also gave out 1,200 hot meals free of charge from the Chatty Café and repurposed ½ tonne of food waste.

“Twelve months ago we had very few working families coming to us; now 25 percent of those coming in are employed. We’ve also seen a 10 percent increase in the number of pensioner households using the service. The cost of living is having a huge impact on people who use our services.”

Charlene Gold, Business Operations Administrator for Dumbarton-based Food for Thought, agreed: “We receive 10 – 15 new referrals every week now. In an average week we give out 100 – 150 food parcels.

“We also have a Christmas Toybank for families, and we refer families to West Dunbartonshire Citizens Advice Bureau and WD Foodshare’s Fuel Bank for energy vouchers and additional support as required.”

Challenging Stigma

All the charities are committed to trying to reduce the stigma often associated with foodbanks. To encourage people to ask for help when they need it, all the organisations are open for self-referrals. They also take referrals from community partners, social work and the NHS – however this isn’t essential for emergency food aid.

Clair Coyle explained that anyone can call WD Foodshare’s Freephone number and they will receive a food parcel the next working day: “We think this is why we’re seeing more pensioners contact us because they don’t need to come in.”

At OKFP Maureen said they are seeing an increase in families from outside the area coming for support. She believes this is because people are embarrassed to be asking for help close to home: “This helps with anxiety and mental health, they know they’re not going to bump into someone they know and no-one here is going to judge them.”

The wide range of Warm Spaces across West Dunbartonshire also help individuals and families reduce costs and the stigma and loneliness that are often associated with financial challenges.

The services provided by these charities and community groups are in high demand and all would appreciate donations of food/cash/toiletries/gifts etc. If you can help please contact them directly.

Below is a list of the Emergency Food Aid & Warm Spaces in West Dunbartonshire.

Emergency Food Aid in WD

Warm Spaces in WD

  • Kilbowie St Andrews Parish Church – Warm space open every Wednesday from 10am – 2pm. Free food/hot drinks are available.
  • Community Cafe, Salvation Army, Sylvania Way South – Wed & Thurs 11am – 1.30pm. Donation only.
  • Cosy Afternoons – Centre 81, Whitecrook Clydebank – Fridays 12 – 3pm – free homemade soup, tea/coffee, Wifi, magazines & company
  • Dalmuir Barclay Church – Drop-in Tots – Teens on Weds 10am – 12noon; Cafe & Community Pantry and Craft Group Thursdays 6.30pm – 8pm & Drop-in café & Community Pantry on Fridays 11am – 2pm
  • Improving Lives Hub – 9am – 5pm Mon to Thurs and 9am – 3pm on Friday.  Men’s Group every Thursday and Sunday 9.30am – 2pm. Warm space offering free tea, biscuits plus advisors available.
  • OKFP Chatty Cafe serving food, tea/coffee and a place for a blether from 12 – 4pm Mon to Fri. Closing December 22 for move to new premises
  • Food for Thought Community Soup & Sandwich – in St Augustine’s Church Hall, Wednesdays 11.30am – 2pm.
  • Ben View Warm & Toasty Breakfast ClubTues & Thurs 9.15am – 11am, Ben View Resource Centre, Dumbarton
  • Soup Club – St Augustine’s Church Hall – Fridays 11.30am – 2pm & St Patrick’s Church Hall, lunches every Mon 11am – 2pm
  • Phoenix Centre Community Cafe, Castlehill, Dumbarton – Weds & Thurs 12 – 1.30pm;  breakfast Tues 8am – 10.30am – now donation-based
  • Soup Spot – Lennox Evangelical Church 12 – 1.30pm every Tuesday
  • Tullochan Community Social Hub – Tuesdays 3pm – 5pm Board games, TV and Wifi, free soup, tea, coffee and snacks. Open to everyone. 9am – 11am Poplar Road, Dumbarton.

Yours for Free in WD

  • The Recycle Room – 137 Onslow Rd, Clydebank G81 2PW – recycles unwanted clothes, toys, household items
  • Isaro Community Initiative – Centre 81, 2/16 Braes Avenue, G81 1DP – energy-saving information & advice, recycle & reuse workshops
  • Help 4 the Homeless Shop – Fleming Avenue, Clydebank – FREE shop recycling pre-loved clothes, shoes and household items. Open Mondays 9am – 2.30pm, Wednesday & Saturday 10.30am – 5pm
  • School Uniform & Baby Banks – Food for Thought & West Dunbartonshire Community Foodshare provide a range of pre-loved school and baby clothes and equipment

All information above is accurate as of time of publication on December 1 2023

Photo courtesy of Association of Ukrainians Great Britain in Edinburgh

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