Northern Ireland news

Belfast food bank in 'dire situation'

‘This is the worst situation we have been in’: Paul McCusker at The People’s Kitchen food bank on Antrim Road in north Belfast Picture: Hugh Russell
Marie Louise McConville

A BELFAST food bank has made a desperate plea for donations after demand for its services have doubled in the past 12 months.

The People's Kitchen, which is based on the Antrim Road in the north of the city, said it has this week found itself in a "dire situation".

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, the food bank, which also offers drop-in and outreach services for the homeless, would make up around 200 food parcels per week.

A year on and demand has seen the number rise to almost 400 per week.

In addition, during the service's homeless outreach, which takes place Monday to Saturday, between 40 and 60 hot meals are being served each night, compared to between 20 and 30 dinners given out prior to the pandemic.

Speaking to The Irish News, Paul McCusker, who co-founded The People's Kitchen, said the service had seen a "massive increase" in demand for its services.

"We have also seen more families and bigger families presenting," he said.

"Asylum seekers and also foreign nationals who are struggling too.

"This lady came in with three kids and she asked for some pancakes and bread. She was actually so hungry she started eating the pancakes in front of us because she hadn't eaten in a few days.

"This pregnant lady walked for four miles to get food for two other children.

"We are getting people presenting in distressed states. Some mothers and families are going hungry for days.

"People come to us crying and trying to overcome the embarrassment and their pride, but they know they have to do it to get a meal".

Mr McCusker said the service was also considering trying to put together lunch packs for children who are off over the summer and whose families may be struggling to feed them.

He said the cost of living crisis and heightened fuel prices had left people struggling.

"People are in desperate situations and it is certainly having a significant impact on their mental health and until we get a clear direction from government, this situation will continue to get worse," he said.

"The increase in butter, milk, sugar, all the basics, people are struggling to access the basics.

"On Monday, we opened the food bank and there was no food.

"We are running out of food most days because of the demand. This is the worst situation we have been in".

**The People's Kitchen has asked for donations of non-perishable food including soup and breakfast items, all sizes of nappies, fruit and veg, toiletries, underwear for adult men and women and sleeping bags.

Items can be dropped off at 1 Antrim Road at Carlisle Circus (at rear of building) or the People's Kitchen can be contacted on 07840 853089

Financial donations can also be made online at www.peopleskitchenbelfast.org

Northern Ireland news