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Valletta foodbank risks closure as supplies dry out

Majority of those seeking support are Maltese families facing financial difficulties

Rev. Kim Hurst at her foodbank in Valletta. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi

Rev. Kim Hurst at her foodbank in Valletta. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi

The foodbank in Old Bakery Street, Valletta risks closure as its supplies are drying out, and the volunteers that run it are appealing for help.

Run by the St Andrews' Scots Church, the foodbank provides supplies for a few weeks for families temporarily facing a crisis.

It all started soon after Rev. Kim Hurst took over as Minister of the Church in 2014. Having had extensive experience working in UK foodbanks, she soon discovered there was no such facility operating effectively in Malta.

After launching the foodbank that same year, it became evident that a significant reason for the increasing number of referrals had been the disintegration of the extended family.

“Many, especially the elderly, do not have the family support that was so prevalent in the past. This trend has been accompanied by the withering of strong community ties and the emergence of far more egocentric life styles,” she noted.

The majority of those seeking the foodbank’s support are Maltese families going through financial difficulties. Most of the referrals came from Appoġġ, and among these many were referred by the Child Protection, Mental Health and Oncology teams.

In 2016, with the help of 15 volunteers, the foodbank handed out more than 800 parcels of food to more than 150 different clients.   Throughout the year there was a steady increase in the number of applicants with a significant rise in the late winter months, likely due to a dip in seasonal work and higher than normal heating bills.

The food packs are financed through donations of money and food, but the volunteers are now struggling to match the increasing demand.

“Indeed, we are very concerned that we may soon have to close down. The unusually cold weather clearly exacerbated the difficulties families in crisis experience managing their debts.

We are very concerned that we may soon have to close down. The unusually cold weather clearly exacerbated the difficulties that families in crisis experience managing their debts

“We are appealing for more support to prevent us from having to turn them away,” Rev. Hurst said.

Over the past year there were some people who took the initiative to spread the word and collect food from their co-workers or friends.

Among others, two large business organisations asked their employees to bring in one item of food per week to donate to the food bank for a period of one month.

Another small company asked employees to make a small monetary donation and the owner doubled the amount collected, while a woman who was congratulated for her fine cooking asked her hosts to show their appreciation by donating to the foodbank.

Through this year, the volunteers behind the foodbank will be trying out new ways of sourcing funds and food supplies, and will be seeking to collaborate with NGOs.

In the meantime, they are appealing for help to keep the food bank operating by giving time, money or food. If you have none of these, then please pray for us and our clients, they said.

For more information, see thefoodbank.webs.com and the Facebook page called The Foodbank at Saint Andrew’s.

Rev. Hurst can also be contact-ed on 2141 5465 or at kim.hurst@methodist.org.uk.

The food bank is on 210, Old Bakery Street in Valletta, and more information is available on www.thefoodbank.webs.com and www.standrewsmalta.com.

What can you do?

• Donate money towards the foodbank.

• Buy extra items and drop them in the collection baskets at the church.

• Volunteer your time.

• If you own a supermarket, put a collection basket where shoppers can drop off a couple of food items.

Sources of crisis for people in need of free food

• A serious illness in the family or medical issues

• Delays in benefits

• Unemployment

• Release from mental or general hospital without an immediate source of income

• Homelessness

• Women or mothers leaving abusive relationships or simply relationships that have irretrievably broken down

• Unaffordable rent increases with no alternative accommodation

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