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Govanhill Foodbanks Under Pressure with Donations Decreasing as Need Rises

Publication: Greater Govanhill

During lockdown, Greater Govanhill reported on how some community spaces, in Glasgow’s Southside, were supporting those in need by providing food provisions. Three years on, little has changed, except for the increase in the number of people seeking support. 

“The number of people donating food has reduced by 50 percent,” Audrey Flannagan., the manager of Glasgow SE Foodbank shares with Greater Govanhill the reality and the knock on effect that the cost of living is having on many spaces supporting vulnerable people.  

During lockdown, Greater Govanhill reported on how some community spaces were supporting those in need by providing food provisions. Three years on, little has changed, except for the increase in the number of people seeking support. 

The Trussell Trust charity supports food banks across the UK to provide emergency food to people and campaigns for policy change to eradicate the need for food banks. Between April and September this year, the charity distributed 128,490 emergency food parcels in Scotland alone, 59 percent of which went to families and children. 

The Trussell Trust charity recently revealed that they had distributed 128,490 emergency food parcels in Scotland between April and September this year. This is the highest amount over the six-month period and a nine percent increase compared to the same period last year. Of this number, 59 percent went to families with children. 

The Al-Khair Foundation

In the Southside of Glasgow, many spaces continue to provide much needed support to those affected by food insecurity. Al-Khair Foundation (AKF) charity on Victoria Road is one such space where people can come anytime between Monday and Saturday, to collect food packages.

Volunteer, Tallot explains that they try to provide a variety of food for service users: “There’s fresh vegetables, fresh fruit and dry food, cooked food from the freezer. Sometimes we have fish as well, so people get a bit of everything and they have the dignity of cooking what they want on a daily basis, rather than the same thing.” 

Of the 60 people AKF supports, many live at Queen’s Park Hotel; a private bed and breakfast that has been used as temporary accommodation for people experiencing homelessness. Despite occupants being housed in the hotel for long periods of time, the space has no cooking facilities apart from microwaves and kettles, making the need for precooked meals critical.

Tallot explains that the demographic is constantly changing as the cost of living is affecting more people: “It’s always been a service that people have needed but the cost of living has contributed to more people using the service.”  

They currently support a variety of people, including those that have been sanctioned. Over time she has seen a particular rise in single parents, people seeking asylum and families facing abuse, using the service, she adds. The rate of homelessness amongst refugees has already doubled in Glasgow over the past few months as the Home Office works through a backlog of cases, and numbers are predicted to keep rising. 

Researchers have found that the cost of living has affected more people and specific groups. The number of people experiencing in-work poverty has increased and those working in particular industries are impacted disproportionately.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) found that: “Nearly three-quarters of people experiencing in-work poverty have someone in their family who works in hospitality, health and social work, retail, administrative support and/or manufacturing.”

Queen’s Park Food Bank

At Queens Park Govanhill Parish Church, the team leader Mark helps facilitate a weekly foodbank on Thursdays, used by 20 to 30 individuals. Over the past two years, the foodbank has seen a drastic decrease in donors. 

“We used to have people donate quite regularly, some of the items came from organisations and shops and others were from individuals but that sort of dried up now. Now most of our food is bought in by the church and we receive fresh vegetables and some other items from Locavore.”

Bank On Us is one campaign launched to encourage more donations. Glasgow Times are running Bank on Us for the fifth consecutive year, they hope readers will be encouraged to fill up a bag, provided by Glasgow Times, with items for those struggling during this season which can then be donated to food banks partnered with the campaign. There is also a GoFundMe created to raise funds to support families to buy toys for their children this Christmas. 

Glasgow South East Food Bank 

Glasgow SE Foodbank is one food bank partnered with Bank on Us. The manager, Audrey, says that the campaign is “a way to encourage people to donate, some people just forget or they don’t realise it’s still a massive problem. Campaigns like this are about raising awareness as much as they are about donations.

“I once had a young man say to me ‘Is that problem not all solved now that we have Universal Credit?’”

The reality is that many of the people utilizing food banks are aware of the benefits and services that they can access and are already receiving them. Despite this, many are still experiencing food insecurity.

According to JRF, ‘90 percent of low-income households on Universal Credit are currently going without essentials.’ This is why the space doesn’t just provide food provisions. On some days there are translators and lawyers to help people understand where they can find support or to help them advocate for themselves.

Last year Glasgow SE Foodbank fed 11500 people and much like other spaces the number of service users is rising whilst donations are decreasing. Each month they spend £1500 to £2000 on food. This is worrying as the food bank is not a long-term sustainable solution for users or the organization, and it doesn’t address the root cause of the issue, Audrey believes. 

She says: “Food insecurity is just a bigger symptom of poverty, the issue is people don’t have enough money to begin with.”

This is why Glasgow SE has partnered with the Trussell Foundation to push for the Guarantee Our Essential campaign. The campaign is encouraging people to sign a petition and lobby their MPs to ensure that Universal Credit is sufficient and allows people to buy essentials such as food and pay for bills, without being forced to use services like food banks.

There are also other spaces, in the Southside, supporting people with food provisions. The People’s Pantry operates via a low-cost model, allowing members to do their weekly shopping for less than £5 a week. Food Not Bombs dishes up free hot meals to passersby every Saturday.

Food banks around Govanhill

Al-Khair Foundation

Address: 441a Victoria Rd, Govanhill, Glasgow G42 8RW

Phone: 0141 423 5747

Glasgow SE Foodbank

Address: 42 Inglefield St, Glasgow G42 7AT

Phone: 0141 423 2418

Queen’s Park Govanhill Church of Scotland

Address: Govanhill Church, 170 Queen’s Dr, Glasgow G42 8QZ

Hours: Thursdays 10-12pm