Cookstown District Council have urged people to give whatever they can spare to local food banks as the festive season approaches.
The Council are hosting a special donation day and coffee morning on December 3 in the Burnavon from 10am-1pm in association with the Saint Vincent Paul Society (SVP), Antioch Store House, local churches and the Citizen’s Advice Bureau.
Speaking at the launch of the event, Cookstown District Council’s Good Relations Officer, Sean McElhatton said: “We are looking the public to come along to our free coffee morning in the Burnavon from 10am to 1pm and enjoy a free cup of tea or coffee and a bun and donate to the food banks.
“We have two local food banks in the town, SVP and the Antioch in Molesworth Street and both are under pressure due to increased demand. We need to raise the profile of local food banks to let people know that help is available all year round, and not just at Christmas.”
Denis Loughrey, from SVP Cookstown spoke to the MAIL of how food banks are now needed by the ‘new poor’, people who up until recently had everything they required, but in some instances a change of circumstances changed everything.
Mr Loughrey said: “We are seeing a growing number of people requiring our help, and most of our new users come from people who up until recently never required the services of a food bank. These are people who were employed but perhaps have lost their jobs and are struggling to cope with bills that continue to come in.
“It is very difficult for people to take that step and come forward for help, but the demand is there like never before, which is why we rely solely on the generosity of the public. SVP have eight different agencies through which they supply food vouchers to and we have seen a huge increase in the number of people requiring these so we really need all the help we can get to ensure we don’t run out.”
Sharon Dillon, Manager of Citizens Advice Bureau for Dungannon, Cookstown and Magherafelt explained how they refer people to the likes of SVP and Antioch for help when required,
“We identify those who come to us and require help from the likes of SVP. The difficulty with the whole thing is the stigma which surrounds it. People are reluctant to ask for help, they are embarrassed, so we try to help by referring them to the specific charities who can help. But the real question is why is there such an increase in the need for food banks, particularly in the 21st Century?”