Wednesday, November 25, 2020
I check in with foodbank manager Sinéad McKinley from the North Belfast Advice Partnership on a regular basis.
Every time I have spoken to her this year she has told me the demand for foodbank services and other supports has increased.
The stories are always upsetting, and eye-opening. A reality check.
They are also a reminder of the kindness of others. And of the utter disgrace it is that in 2020, as part of one of the richest economies in the world, we have families struggling to put food on the table, stay warm, and pay bills.
Of course the Covid-19 pandemic has made this all much worse.
Food, fuel, and other poverty is real, and growing.
People being supported by foodbanks include: newborns; asylum seekers and refugees; cancer patients; citizens in their 90s; expectant mums; families escaping domestic abuse; the newly unemployed; the furloughed; the working poor; people in drug debt; students; and more. The list goes on...
Last month an interview I did with Sinead - where she spoke of people's "despair" - was included as part of a Europe-wide piece done in collaboration with colleagues, which you can read on The Washington Post website here: Gloom settles over Europe as days darken and coronavirus surges
Sinéad, her colleagues and a team of volunteers are helping hundreds of families in some of the most deprived areas of the city access hot meals and food parcels.
As well as being in despair, many people feel a lack of control. Without hope.
“The single mummies, our lowest paid workers, on the worst contracts, are getting it the toughest," Sinéad told amanda.ie
“They are on minimum wage hours, and all the wee cafes and places they work in town are closed, or they are losing their jobs.
“One young mummy didn’t have nappies for her wee baby and she was crying with pure relief when we handed her them."
People are struggling. They are fatigued and worried about what lies ahead.
It is dark outside and the weather is cruel. People are going hungry, and they are struggling to heat their homes, pay their bills, and many are without the IT equipment and internet access that others take for granted.
Volunteers are engaged in rewarding endeavours but witnessing such extreme poverty is also taking its toll on them.
Sinéad is already thinking past Christmas and into the depths of winter.
For now Christmas is looming large.
If you are in a position to support Sinéad and her team's work, which is carried out via the People's Kitchen Belfast at Farset International, 446 Springfield Road, Belfast, there are loads of ways to help.
You can donate your time, food, toys. Perhaps you can be a £50 'Secret Santa' and sponsor a child via PayPal using the email address email@example.com or donate any amount also on PayPal using the email address Foodbank@northbelfastadvice.org
The PayPal account is found here: NBAP PayPal
I am highlighting this particular foodbank because I am from north Belfast and it is the one I have had a relationship with for the last few years.
I have tried to support it personally, through my work, and the women's giving circle I am part of (Give Inc).
Unfortunately there are many many more foodbanks all over the north/NI and further afield, so please contact your local community groups to find out what you can do in your area.
And now the Giants are throwing their weight behind the Christmas campaign which aims to support 2,500 families!