So you think it cannot be possible that there are Maltese citizens in need of provisions from our Foodbank? 

If you do – then you are totally wrong. 

You also fail to realise how possible it is for any one of us to sink into poverty as a result of some unforeseen circumstances.

Consider the following desperate situations in which you or I could find ourselves:

A mother whose husband has left her, has three young children, one of whom is severely disabled, and has no income;

A young man whose only skills are as a builder, has a crippling accident, is wheelchair bound and unable to secure alternative employment;

A spouse’s bank account is frozen due to bereavement;

A family’s rental costs have been increased extortionately, placing them on the breadline;

A Satabank-type scenario that prevents clients from withdrawing their earnings to pay for their daily needs;

A patient suffering a mental illness is discharged from Mount Carmel Hospital and has no funds for food during the weeks it takes for benefits to come through;

A family’s income is drastically reduced by the onset of cancer and the debilitating treatment required of the major breadwinner.

And so on and so forth… These are just some real-life circumstances in which our clients have found themselves. 

Our Foodbank was established by the Reverend Kim Hurst of St Andrew’s Scottish Methodist Church in June 2015 to assist people passing through such critical situations. At that time, the number of clients ranged from five to no more than 10 a week. The numbers have increased significantly.

During October this year we provided food for over 300 families. Each client receives a pack of non-perishable food sufficient to feed him/her or the family for a week. So on average, throughout the past year, we have given food to some 1,300 individuals each month. And the majority of our clients were Maltese. 

Drive up Old Bakery Street in mid-afternoon on a Tuesday or Thursday and you can see for yourselves a crowd waiting for the Foodbank to open.

You fail to realise how possible it is for any one of us to sink into poverty

You may wonder – are these people genuinely in need? 

Well ask yourself: would you queue for some time to be given a balanced combination, but hardly a gourmet collection, of tinned and packaged food items unless you could not afford otherwise? 

Moreover, it must be stressed, we only provide food to people who have been referred to us in writing by a registered social worker. The following agencies and organisations regularly refer clients to our Foodbank: Appoġġ; LEAP; Caritas; The Jean Antide Foundation; The Millennium Chapel; Catholic Action.

We also receive emergency referrals from school social workers, housing social workers, Mater Dei doctors and social workers as well as from parish priests.

As the work of the Foodbank has expanded steadily over the past three years, so has the number of volunteers. We now have a contingent of some 20 caring individuals who work for the Foodbank voluntarily on a regular basis. 

All credit for the great work that is being done is due to Reverend Kim – founder, CEO and now chairperson of the newly formed board of directors. 

She has also had the foresight to ensure the continuity of the Foodbank should her term of office in Malta end, and as such is in the process of establishing foundation status – we are shortly to become ‘The Foodbank Lifeline Foundation’.

We have always relied solely on donations in the form of funds or non-perishable food items to feed our clients. A pack of food for a family costs about €40, so our average weekly expenditure is about €3,000. To ensure continuity of supplies to those in need, we are once again launching the Reverse Advent Calendar campaign to encourage food donations over the Christmas period.

Those schools and companies that have kindly accepted to participate will invite pupils and employees to donate food items listed on our website on each day of Advent. 

Any one box filled will feed a family for a week. You may know of families living in ga­rages, or an elderly couple with only a pension as income left with the custody of their grandchildren, or a single mother who is blind and unemployed and whose underage son is stealing her possessions to finance his drug addiction, or others who are struggling due to unlucky circumstances.

While these unfortunate people may be referred to the Foodbank when they cannot make ends meet, we – more fortunate individuals – should acknowledge the assistance they require and facilitate the ability to do so by supporting the Foodbank.

We are the Foodbank in Malta and Gozo that directly provides food for the genuinely needy.

Do visit our website or find us on Facebook or Instagram, and please do donate.

Anne McKenna is a member of the board of directors of the Foodbank Lifeline Foundation. This was a joint article with the founder and chairperson Rev. Kim Hurst and the other directors. Foodbank Lifeline is at St Andrew’s House, 210, Old Bakery Street, Valletta.

This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece

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