A COMMUNITY-led project aimed at cutting down food waste and helping struggling Barrhead families is providing a ‘safe place’ for those in need.

Last year Rena McGuire BEM and local volunteers - supported by the Corra Foundation - partnered with Crookston Community Group to host a pilot foodshare hub at Dunterlie Resource Centre.

The six-week pilot proved popular, drawing more than 30 people a week from the community.

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And the initiative has since grown arms and legs, with a permanent foodshare facility now at Dunterlie, thanks to funding awarded to the project by East Renfrewshire Council.

Rena told the Barrhead News: “The foodshare is about bringing food which is in danger of going to waste from local retailers, large and small, to local communities who can use the food, filling their fridges for free.

“We had a six-week pilot of the foodshare last year to see how we would get on and see how the foodshare would work amongst the community.

“When we are packing the bags for the foodshare, we always try and maintain that the person gets at least two meals - it could be toast and beans or it could be chicken and rice. Sometimes it doesn’t always work because we’re not in control of what comes in.

“Anyone can come to the foodshare and they don’t have to be on benefits. We link into the schools as well if we have extra food that hasn’t been moved - mainly with Barrhead High because they do a lot of cookery classes there.”

The Barrhead News recently revealed how one in three kids in Barrhead are caught in the poverty trap – more than 10 per cent higher than anywhere else in East Renfrewshire.
However, this came as no great surprise to Rena, who sees parents in struggling every week.

She said: “I don’t think the statistics are a surprise because you’ve got a lot of parents who are out working over 16 hours a week and they’re still struggling.

“And with the school holidays they struggle even further because they need to find child care and it must be really difficult for them. 

“Not everyone has the money to pay for summer schemes that are held during the holidays.

“In this day and age, I don’t think we should have foodbanks. 

“I think it is quite shocking but you have got people out there that need them and they need that support because not everyone is receiving benefits or qualify for a food referral.

“People that come along, it’s almost like a safe place for them - they come in, with no referrals, and they can grab a cup of tea and have a chat with others that are there.”

A report considered by East Renfrewshire Council and submitted to the Scottish Government lifted the lid on the ‘have and have not’ nature of communities in the local area.

While child poverty levels in Barrhead stand at 30 per cent, the figure drops to 18 per cent for Neilston, Uplawmoor and Newton Mearns North.

The lowest level can be found in Netherlee, Stamperland and Williamwood, where the figure is six per cent.

Council leader Tony Buchanan pledged not to be ‘complacent’ about the inequality across the area and said the council had to keep ‘trying harder’ to resolve it.

Mum-of-two, Joleene Woodhouse, has been volunteering at the foodshare since it began and has come into a situation where she has also been needing a helping hand from the initiative.

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The 31-year-old, said: “I have been volunteering in Dunterlie for around two years and I help run the parent and toddlers group here.

“And with helping at the foodshare, I wanted to give something back to people on the area and not just to the parent and toddlers group.

“I have been in a situation recently, where me and my two kids have had basically nothing so being part of the community as well has helped a lot.

“I found myself going along to the foodbanks and I felt very awkward going there, having to tell someone that I was really struggling, to then get a referral, to then take that to a room full of people.

“Whereas, at the foodshare, it is open door - you come in and take a bag full of food and you can either leave or stay for a chat and have a cup of tea or coffee. It is a lot more relaxed, with a better atmosphere.”

The foodshare at Dunterlie is held every Friday from 11am until 12.30pm.