A food bank in West Belfast has said it is currently experiencing extreme pressure with 142 households visited on Wednesday alone with emergency food supplies.

Foodstock on the Andersonstown Road deliver over 400 food parcels per week, with the organisation saying that demand from households is increasing all the time.

Paul Doherty, Foodstock manager, spoke with the Andersonstown News and explained how the organisation has been a real lifeline for people and has been “the difference between children waking up in the morning and having a breakfast and coming home to a dinner that night".

“We are hearing stories of parents waking up a in real distress because there’s no food to feed their children before they go to school and equally, they’re panicking during the day because there’s nothing for them coming home for their dinner, and we’re hearing that from youth centres and from schools,” said Paul.

“It just feels that every day it is getting worse. We’re seeing in one day alone probably more referrals now than we were seeing in a whole week a year ago.

“It’s getting to the stage now where we’re literally delivering over 400 food parcels per week and that’s increasing all the time. We’re seeing an increase in people coming to us for food support as well and calling into our unit here in Andytown. 

“On Monday, we had quite a lot of food banks closed all over Belfast and that added extra pressure to us where we were supporting people in every corner of the city because people couldn’t avail of help, they couldn’t get to a shop. So our volunteers were out in all parts of Belfast.

“We’re looking at different initiatives where we could have people heating their home, help people to keep warm and we’re going to be rolling those out in the weeks and months to try and be there for people and get them through this.”

Operating seven days a week with a team of volunteers, the organisation works closely with different agencies, local organisations and advice centres, getting referrals of people who are being identified as being in real need.

“We’re very lucky to have such a selfless team of volunteers who are out seven days a week now. When we started off initially, we were one day a week," Paul says.

“It’s very much a community-led organisation, it’s the community looking out for each other. I can’t speak highly enough of the volunteers here. People are finishing their shifts at work at five o’ clock, getting their dinner and coming straight here and they’re out in the community for three hours that evening delivering food parcels.

“The big thing that we’re noticing at the minute is that there is an awful lot of working families and low-income families who have never before in their lives asked for help and they are now. That’s the sort of situation we’re in where people aren’t getting support when it comes to school uniform grants, and everyone is struggling at the minute. Everyone is feeling the squeeze.

“I never saw myself doing this and I’m sure the other volunteers here didn’t either but it’s just a direct response to what is going on within our community and that’s people stepping up within the community and doing their best to help others and as it stands there is a real need for this at the minute, it’s providing a real lifeline for people. 

“We’re very much reliant on the community and everything on our shelves has been donated by the community for the community so it’s very much driven by the people in West Belfast and we couldn’t do this without them. Many people don’t have it to give but yet they do and that’s the incredible thing about West Belfast and we see that every day here.”