Food bank a ‘lifeline’ for people who have fallen on hard times

Manger Sarah Coulter with volunteers Thomas Willis and Patrick Loughead.  INPT2514-473
Manger Sarah Coulter with volunteers Thomas Willis and Patrick Loughead. INPT2514-473

When volunteers from Craigavon Area Food Bank went to deliver provisions to a local family, the only furniture was a metal table and two garden chairs in the living room and no food at all in the cupboard or fridge.

This is the stark reality facing families who, for a variety of reasons, including the recession, have fallen on hard times.

And, as local rector Gary Galway points out, the belief that it is just foreign nationals is incorrect.

“This is people born and brought up here,” he said.

In the case of the individuals mentioned above, the food bank not only supplied them with food but, with the help of local charities, also helped them furnish the house.

The food bank was set up in November 2012 and serves the Lurgan, Craigavon and Portadown areas.

It is a ‘crisis intervention’ group, providing non-perishable items for people referred to them through a variety of organisations.

Manager Sarah Coulter explained that people who need help may have lost their job, be waiting for benefits or be unable to work through illness.

The cross-community group has representatives of five churches on its board, with food donated by the public.

It is staffed by 50 volunteers who work across the area’s three centres from Monday to Friday on a rota basis, and 20 others who help out at one-off events.

One of the volunteers is local man Stanley Harkness, who transports food from the distribution warehouse in Carn in his own car to the three centres.

The group is looking for a van and any offers of help would be gratefully received.

Sarah said some people were putting food on the table for their children but going without themselves.

She explained, “For people on a low wage, it doesn’t take much, such as an unexpected bill, to push them into a crisis situation.

“It could happen to any one of us. The group is a lifeline for some people. We restore their dignity and hope.”