By Monica Gibson

VOLUNTEERS at Barrhead’s foodbank have lifted the lid on the scale of despair faced by a growing number of families.

Demand for support from the East Renfrewshire Food Bank (ERFB) soared by almost 50 per cent within the space of a year.

And, increasingly, it is large families who are most in need.

Stanley Esson, who is part of the ERFB management team, told the Barrhead News: “Over the years, the number of people coming to us is only increasing.

“There is no way to legislate why and when we are going to be the busiest, so we really do rely on donations coming in.

“What we have noticed is that there are more large families coming to us. At the start, it was mostly individuals.

“These are people in crisis, which is very sad, but thank goodness they can come here.”

Set up in October 2013, ERFB has since helped more than 2,000 couples, around 3,500 small families and almost 4,000 more large families who have struggled to put food on the table.

From January to March, ERFB handed out 389 food parcels, compared to 263 during the same period last year.

Four supermarkets, 15 businesses, 31 community groups, 21 churches, 26 schools and nurseries and 112 individuals across the region make up the bank’s donor list and, together, they have handed in around 90 tonnes of goods, ranging from soup to toilet rolls.

Stanley explained the meticulous process where donated items are checked for sell-by dates, weighed and logged and then divied up into parcels depending on demand.

He said: “Each food parcel provides three days worth of supplies. A small family could be one adult and two or three children or two adults and two children. A large family could be five, six or seven people but we count five.”

“While we say that 11,253 people have been fed, it is likely to be a lot more.”

In 2017 from January to March, ERFB handed out 389 food parcels compared to just 263 during the same period in 2016. There were 311 parcels distributed during October to December in 2015 and last year the figure rose to 381 in those winter months.

Agnes Law, another ERFB volunteer, added: “People need to be given a voucher before they can get a food parcel. These are available from various places, including Citizens Advice.

“The Trussel Trust stipulates what each parcel should contain and how often people can come. But, to be honest, we have to be flexible with some of the rules because people on low income are rarely going to suddenly change to high income.

“Our parcels are also slightly larger than what is recommended but we may have to revisit that as more and more people sadly need the service.

“The Food Bank is really a Christian organisation and it is about trying to do the right thing and help others. We are very grateful to everyone who donates and gives up their time.”

Between April 1 2016 and March 31, 2017, The Trussell Trust’s Foodbank Network provided 1,182,954 three-day emergency food supplies to people in crisis compared to 1,109,309 in 2015-16.

Across Scotland, the figure was 145,865 and in East Renfrewshire alone 1,614 parcels were handed out.

The foodbank is based at St Andrew’s Church, in Main Street, and is open twice a week. To find out more, click here.