Foodbank to meet need in the north
The demand for crisis support in north Belfast is "greater now than ever" according to the coordinator of the areas first ever foodbank.
Commenting at the official opening of the centre Heather Carson said that in a time of economic instability, crises were never too far away for anyone and the service had become increasingly needed.
Over 120 people have been referred to the volunteer run centre since it opened in August this year.
The foodbank, affiliated to The Trussell Trust, is run by volunteers from across the church community of North Belfast and food is donated by churches, business, schools and individuals in the area.
The service offers enough non-perishable food for a three day period and is available on three separate occasions to clients referred by front-line care professionals.
"In times of wider crises the knock on effect on the lives of individuals means that demand for a helping hand service is greater now than ever," said Ms Carson.
"The type of people coming to us for help is wide ranging from families who are burdened with debt and just need one less thing to worry about to people who have fled domestic abuse and again just need a hand up."
Clients who visit the centre are also offered the chance to talk with trained volunteers.
The evening was attended by local politicians Alban Maginness and Nelson McCausland, care professional staff, PSNI, volunteers and supporters.
George Clarke, PSNI Area Commander for North & West Belfast, spoke of how all organisations within the community of North Belfast can work together to create a better environment for all.
Social Development Minister north Belfast MLA Nelson McCausland said the foodbank would be welcomed by the north Belfast community.
"I acknowledge the work of the many volunteers associated with it. I look forward to working in partnership with staff and volunteers to ensure that people receiving assistance from the Foodbank are referred to our Make the Call Benefit Advice Line where staff can carry out a full and confidential benefit entitlement check to ensure that they are claiming and receiving all government benefits, services and supports that they are entitled to."
The 11 foodbanks operating in Northern Ireland, in affiliation with The Trussell Trust, have been used by over 3000 people since April this year.