The latest initiative to tackle hardship brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic is now well under way on the west side of Lewis.
Barvas Foodbank was launched on May 12th and is already meeting the needs of families and individuals struggling to make ends meet as jobs are cut and workers remain on furlough.
It’s the latest in a series of specifically local initiatives run by volunteers to ensure that people in their own districts don’t go short of essentials, with Eilean Siar Foodbank, Tong Food Boxes and the Salvation Army’s Stornoway branch among the initiatives to ensure that people don’t go hungry.
Community development worker for Ness and the Westside Sarah Campbell had just prepared for the first meeting of a new Westside youth club when schools closed and lockdown hit in mid-March.
Determined to do something within the community to try and address the situation, she spoke to parents who’d been prepared to help with the youth club and they resolved to look at practical support in a different way.
Two weeks ago Barvas and Brue community centre opened for the first time to gather together food items and parcel them up for people who needed a bit of a boost for their shopping essentials.
Sarah said: “We had put together a Facebook page and created a shopping list of essential food items and we approached the councillors for the Westside and Ness. With £500 from their donations and another £500 from the Barvas Trust, plus £2,000 from Foundation Scotland, we were able to buy supplies and get a food bank started.”
The food donated is assembled into parcels, with dietary needs taken into account so that anyone with allergies or intolerance to particular foods gets only what suits their diet. It’s then delivered to the doorstep of those who need it.
Barvas and Brue Community Centre is now open on Tuesdays and Fridays from 3.15 to 4pm to collect in donations, with volunteers working at safe distances inside to package up parcels.
Since first opening up on 12 May there have been 10 food packages donated from the FareShare food distribution organised by CAB Scotland. Eilean Siar Foodbank has also been in touch to ask for help distributing food parcels needed by people in the Westside district.
Sarah said: “The area we cover is between Ness and Dalbeag and we have been working with school secretaries to make contact with families eligible for free school meals, as well as with community nurses and advocacy workers to identify adults who might need some food support.
“But we’re also accepting requests from individuals, with discretion assured to anyone who needs any help. We’re expecting a lot more demand as time passes, because it seems increasingly likely that this crisis isn’t going away any time soon and we are ready to be of help to anyone who needs it.”
If you know anyone who would benefit from food support and who lives between Ness and Dalbeag, you can contact Sarah on 07927 236450, Murdo on 07770 824552 or 01851 840284, or Louis on 07870 362449.