THE North Belfast Community Food Bank are launching this year’s Christmas appeal in October due to the “high numbers” of people on the referral list.

Based in Ardoyne, the food bank operates all year around and received much praise from the local community earlier this year for its work during the Covid-19 lockdown.

With the festive season approaching and the damaging impact of Covid-19 on family incomes, organisers have decided to launch their Christmas appeal now, nine weeks ahead of Yuletide.

Nichola Bradley says the launch of this year’s appeal is due to a matter of urgent need to help people in the local community.

“We have been taking in referrals from community groups, youth clubs and schools amongst others,” she explained.

“It is only October and we are already sitting on high numbers.

“This year has been the most difficult yet with Covid-19. Due to restrictions, we are not able to go out and do food drives in the local community.

“The money is also not there anymore. People have lost their jobs and finances are tight.

“We rely so much on the local pubs and sports clubs to help us out with appeals but they are closed at the minute.

“I am reaching out to anyone who can help us.

“We don’t have the luxury of waiting around this year which is why we are launching the appeal now.

“Christmas can be a very difficult time financially for families, this year more than most due to Covid-19. 

“We want to make sure that we are doing what we can to make this time a little easier for those most in need. 

“If you are lucky enough to donate any food items or a toy/gift for a child or teenager, we would be very grateful.”

The Community Food Bank is working with Ardoyne GAA, Marrowbone Community Hub and Volunteer Project, GRACE Womens Group, Intercomm and John Paul Youth Club to ensure that the most vulnerable in our communities are taken care of during this holiday season.

Food items in need include soups, jams, biscuits/chocolates, tins of peas, carrots, beans, meat, fish, fruit, jelly, custard and rice, pasta, noodles, cereal products.

Toilitries such as nappies, baby wipes, baby shampoo as well as washing up liquid and washing powder are also on the in-demand list.

Donations can be left to SPAR in the Flax Centre, Monday to Wednesday from 10.30am-12.30pm.