30,000 food parcels distributed in Belfast in eight weeks
MORE than 30,000 food parcels have been distributed across Belfast in two months by a community hub set up to help those in need through the coronavirus pandemic.
Launched in April through Belfast City Council to distribute essential food items on behalf of the Department for Communities (DfC), it is being operated by council staff and volunteers.
The facility has also coordinated the distribution of £735,000 in emergency community funding. The money is being used by voluntary and community organisations in Belfast to help the delivery of urgent services to those in need.
On his first engagement as new Lord Mayor of Belfast, Frank McCoubrey, along with Secretary of State Brandon Lewis visited the hub at Ulster Hall.
Mr McCoubrey said it was a “lifeline” to people struggling through the Covid-19 pandemic.
“At its peak, staff were receiving around 1,000 calls and emails each day. We are pleased to have been able to provide this much needed support for people, to help with practical things such as ensuring they are not going without food,” he said.
Mr McCoubrey said in many instances the weekly deliveries were the only human contacts some people were experiencing. He said that messages of thanks received by staff showed how much the deliveries meant to recipients and their families.
It will remain open throughout June and a freephone helpline is available from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, and from 10am to 2pm on Saturdays. Full details are available at www.belfastcity.gov.uk/helpline.
It was also revealed on Wednesday that demand for food banks across Northern Ireland has risen by almost 150 per cent since the start of the Covid-19 crisis.
SDLP assembly member, Mark H Durkan said the high level of usage was already unacceptable in a modern and progress society before the pandemic.
“However, it is extremely worrying that the demand for local food banks has risen by 142 per cent, compared to last April. This includes a huge rise of 128 per cent for children seeking support,” the Derry assembly member said.
Mr Durkan called on the executive to take a number of immediate actions to ease the burden on those in need.
“These include extending and strengthening welfare mitigations and scrapping the callous two child tax, suspending Universal Credit advance payment collections and continuing free meals until children return to school,” he said.