By the end of August, the food bank in Valletta had handed out more food than it did throughout all of 2017, a year that had seen the charity turning away clients as its shelves ran dry.
This year, the food bank, run by the St Andrews’ Scots Church, has managed to provide the needy with €3,000 worth of food every week partly because of its successful Reverse Advent Calendar campaign.
The bank provides food for a few weeks to families temporarily facing a crisis, including people who have their benefits halted when admitted to hospital.
Once discharged, it takes about six weeks for the benefits to start again – and this is where the food bank steps in. Clients are referred to the food bank by social workers, NGOs, hospitals, schools and priests among others.
The food bank receives donations from individuals and companies, however, the bulk of the food was collected last Christmas through its calendar initiative.
Administrator Reverend Kim Hurst told the Sunday Times of Malta that the food bank was still handing out some of the items donated through this initiative. She is hoping that the campaign, which has provided a lifeline to the bank, will be even more successful this Christmas.
Rev Hurst was speaking to this newspaper on Thursday evening, which is the busiest day for the bank, with people queueing outside the premises two hours before it opens its doors.
When it first opened in 2015, the food bank distributed 240 packs of food, which more than doubled to 832 packs in 2016. The numbers continued to increase to 2,125 in 2017, while until the end of August of this year, 2,150 packs of food had been handed out. Since opening its doors in 2015, the food bank has fed 21,388 people, including repeats. Each family pack holds around 20 kilos of food and has a value of between €35 and €40.
Rev Hurst attributes the increased number of clients to increased poverty because of seasonal work and high rents among others, but also the fact that more people are aware of the food bank and are willing to help out.
Sometimes the bank gets re-referred people who are made redundant at the end of summer, while its clients include victims of human trafficking and domestic violence survivors. With the food bank continuing to grow, the initiative is now being registered as an autonomous foundation.
The process will include the rebranding of the Foodbank Lifeline Foundation and the launch of a new website tomorrow. Eventually, the bank may also start distributing food from centres outside of Valletta so as to be more accessible to people in need, who come from across the island.
From tomorrow, you can log onto www.foodbanklifeline.com to help out.