A foodbank that four years ago started feeding five to 10 families a week has become the lifeline for 80 to 100 families every week.
But as demand continues to rise, the Foodbank Lifeline Foundation is struggling to collect the €20,000 worth of food it needs every month.
Formerly known as the St Andrew’s Scots church foodbank, the foundation receives tonnes of food around Christmas time through its Reverse Calendar initiative. But its food stock starts to run thin by April.
The people behind the foundation are concerned that this Christmas, supplies will fail to keep up with demand.
“Our overall average throughout 2018 was just over 60 clients per week. We are currently feeding on average 89 clients per week, although some weeks this reaches even 110 families,” co-ordinator Ross Yarnold estimates.
The foodbank 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 or NGOs, and although walk-ins are helped with a one-off pack, they are asked to get a referral.
Unfortunately, clients facing long-term struggles rather than one-offs are on the increase.
“We are meant to be a crisis-only foodbank and we’d love to be able to give more food. We start running out of food donated through the Reverse Advent Calendar by April and then we struggle through the year,” Anne McKenna, board member of the foundation, told Times of Malta.
“The state should acknowledge that the gap between the poor and the rich is growing and some people are being marginalised. For these people, there is no one else to turn to except the foodbank.”
We are currently feeding on average 89 clients per week, although some weeks this reaches even 110 families
People start queuing outside the foodbank well before it opens its doors and all they get is tinned food – this is a reflection of how truly in need they are, she added.
Ms McKenna, who is also one of the volunteers handing out food packs, noted that several of the elderly female clients who reach out are suffering from loneliness. One woman told Ms McKenna that she was suddenly being uprooted from the house that she has called home since birth.
The woman, in tears, explained that her landlord wanted to turn his property into an Airbnb rental and she had to find another property to rent out at a much higher fee, leaving her with only €50 from her pension cheque.
Some clients were struggling to find work, while the family of others had been struck with illness or a disability and they had to stop working to take care of their relative. Rent, again, was eating up most of their social benefits and they were struggling to make ends meet.
In the past, the foodbank has found itself on the brink of shutting down a couple of times, and it only managed to scrape through with the help of its two main sponsors – the Alf Mizzi Foundation and Izola bank.
With demand always on the increase, apart from more food, the foodbank also needs more volunteers to help in the sorting of perishables and handing out of packs, which takes place at Valletta, Paola, St Paul’s Bay and Birkirkara.
The foodbank has a van that it uses to pick up boxes from companies who support it with perishables. However, anyone can help out and individuals can drop off food packs at Quicklets and Zanzi Homes outlets, the Atrium’s reception and Intercomp offices. They can also call the foodbank to set up an appointment and drop off food at a Qormi warehouse where it has started sorting food.
People can also drop off some items at supermarkets such as Valyou in Naxxar and Mellieħa, Smart in Birkirkara and Pama in Mosta.
Make a difference this Christmas. Log onto www.foodbanklifeline.com for information about the Reverse Advent Calendar.