Star tells Stormont ‘get your act together’ and provide more support for food banks
Eamonn Holmes has praised the work of Belfast food bank volunteers and said Stormont leaders should “wise up” and do more to help thousands experiencing homelessness and poverty.
The broadcaster paid a visit to the People’s Kitchen on the Springfield Road, a project launched last September as more people find themselves homeless and rely on food banks to get by.
He saw at first hand how food parcels are prepared every day, with around 200 families and individuals being helped each week.
Between a tour of the kitchen and interviews, there was also plenty of time for selfies and one resident even video-called his mum to have a quick chat with the TV anchor.
Speaking outside, Mr Holmes told how impressed he was by the volunteers’ efforts and called on the Executive to provide more support.
Explaining his own work with food banks in England through the Manchester United foundation, he said the pandemic had exposed the true scale of deprivation.
With more families struggling on the margins, he said the People’s Kitchen was an important example of community spirit in action.
“Thank God there are people like the People’s Kitchen volunteers who are there to fill that gap and actually care for people,” he said.
“You’re talking about thousands of people a week who cannot afford to feed their children and that would make me hang my head in shame.”
Addressing Stormont leaders, he said: “A lot of people get very angry about politicians...it’s a tough job, I wouldn’t want to be a politician. But I would say, to use a Belfast vernacular, wise up. Get your act together and see what’s here.
“I’ve been in the Royal Victoria Hospital for the past few days. People in corridors, staff overworked. Get your act together, put the money where it should be in social care. Because if it’s not about people, what is it about? Do your duty – do what you’re elected for.”
On his struggle with chronic back pain, he said: “I have two dislocated discs, I have very little power in my right leg. But I was working in Enniskillen last week and I came across an amazing physio and he’s done fantastic work for me. He’s put a smile on my face.”
Mr Holmes said he was now hopeful that with regular treatments after his presenting duties on This Morning his recovery will be quicker.
Jane McKinley, who is the coordinator for the North Belfast advice partnership and helps to run the food bank, said the visit had been a wonderful opportunity to raise awareness of food poverty. “I think it’s really important people know that others care about them. That’s one of the things about poverty, people can feel very isolated,” she added.
SDLP councillor Paul McCusker, who is coordinator for the People’s Kitchen, said: “What we’ve seen in the last number of years is the growing need of people who require assistance around food.
“We also look after a number of people who are homeless on the streets. The service here is open seven days a week, it’s quite often 12-hour days and it’s run by volunteers. Our job is to help assist families and individuals who experience poverty and homelessness.
“It’s fantastic to have Eamonn here today, it lifts the spirits of a lot of people who are volunteers and who stay here.”