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Belfast food bank quadruples output during pandemic

The South-West Belfast Foodbank has had to adapt with deliveries and take on more volunteers.

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The Belfast food bank has had to change how it operates (Peter Morrison/PA)

The Belfast food bank has had to change how it operates (Peter Morrison/PA)

The Belfast food bank has had to change how it operates (Peter Morrison/PA)

A Belfast food bank has quadrupled its output and is preparing for even greater demand once the coronavirus pandemic has levelled out.

The South-West Belfast Foodbank has changed how it works from clients visiting for supplies as well as a comforting chat, to increasing deliveries and handing out shopping bags via a contactless hatch.

Manager Edel Diamond said she has been bowled over by the generosity of the public, with donations increasing as well as scores of volunteers coming forward to keep the service going.

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***Hold for Health Coronavirus Ulster food bank story***Edel Diamond who is organising the South West food bank in West Belfast, Tuesday, April 21, 2020. Peter Morrison/PA

***Hold for Health Coronavirus Ulster food bank story***Edel Diamond who is organising the South West food bank in West Belfast, Tuesday, April 21, 2020. Peter Morrison/PA

***Hold for Health Coronavirus Ulster food bank story***Edel Diamond who is organising the South West food bank in West Belfast, Tuesday, April 21, 2020. Peter Morrison/PA

The food bank has adapted its base to be able to continue helping those in need.

“We have had to change our set-up drastically due to the Covid crisis,” she said.

“Before we welcomed clients into the building and offered a tactile approach, giving them comfort and a listening ear, now we’re having to see clients through a glass door and they pick up their food from a hatch at the opposite end of the building.

“We have moved to a delivery model as well.

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***Hold for Health Coronavirus Ulster food bank story***Volunteer Lisa Mckernan prepares the food parcels at the South West food bank in West Belfast, Tuesday, April 21, 2020. Peter Morrison/PA

***Hold for Health Coronavirus Ulster food bank story***Volunteer Lisa Mckernan prepares the food parcels at the South West food bank in West Belfast, Tuesday, April 21, 2020. Peter Morrison/PA

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***Hold for Health Coronavirus Ulster food bank story***Volunteer Lisa Mckernan prepares the food parcels at the South West food bank in West Belfast, Tuesday, April 21, 2020. Peter Morrison/PA

“Our client use has almost quadrupled. On a given session, which is an hour-and-a-half, we would have had six to seven clients, now we’re looking at maybe 23-24 deliveries per session and maybe some referrals coming to the door. Yesterday for example, 30 food parcels went out between 1-3pm.

“The whole chit-chat has all gone for the moment but my phone is busier than ever, it’s not ideal but there’s still that comfort that we can give, even if its not in the building setting.”

Ms Diamond said donations, both in terms of food and cash, have also increased.

“In the last lot of weeks we have been inundated with food donations and we have been inundated even more so with financial donations,” she said.

“We have had people coming to drop cheques or cash off, people coming each week to drop donations off at the back door. Food donations come into the back of the building and are then quarantined in our quarantine room for 72 hours.”

Ms Diamond also warned there is concern that the need will increase further.

“When this crisis starts to level out, there is going to be a lot of people in need, so that’s when the food banks will really kick in,” she said.

“Our numbers are quadrupling already but we think there will be a great need when this is over.”

PA