Ballymoney’s first ever Food Bank officially opened its doors at the weekend with overwhelming support from the community and a ringing endorsement from the Mayor who says that the facility will be “great for the town.”
Based at Silversprings and manned by volunteers, the Food Bank will provide emergency food and support to local people in crisis.
Initially it will operate for two days a week but this is expected to grow as more volunteers are recruited.
The Bank has been in the planning stages for some six months and during that time has received tremendous support from local churches, organisations, the public and the supermarket giant Tesco along with Ballymoney Borough Council who donated £1500 on top of the proceeds of a Mayoral dinner which yielded £350.
Food supplies are in abundance according to spokesperson Peter Rollins who, along with colleagues, Jarlath Heggarty and John McClements, are rightly proud of what they achieved.
On Friday last during an open day, the Mayor, MLA, Mervyn Storey, councillors and clergy along with other interested parties called to give their support to a project which the Mayor says is vital for the Borough given the austerity measures brought in by the Government.
“This is a very welcome project and the organisers are to be congratulated. They have done a tremendous job to address a real problem in Ballymoney where some people are in great need of help,” Cllr. Finlay said.
Ballymoney Foodbank is part of the Trussell Trust’s UK-wide foodbank network which enables local organisers to tap into the huge support offered by the likes of Tesco.
Indeed, it means that on three dates during the year, those behind the project can collect food and donations at the Ballymoney store. The last fund-raiser at Tesco saw some three and a half tonnes of food donated making it the best from any Tesco store in Northern Ireland.
Vouchers will be issued by accredited sources with proper documentation having to be presented to the Bank. All details are computer recorded and the food, which is designed to meet recognised dietary requirements, is distributed according to the size of the family.
Supplies should last three days and distribution is normally on three occasions in every six-month period although volunteers will adopt a caring and flexible approach if there is an added need in that time.
Mr Rollins described the response from the local public as “staggering” and is confident that the support will continue.
“At present, we know there is a need in Ballymoney but we don’t know the extent of that need,” he said.
However, he did reveal the extent of some people’s hardship by citing a husband and wife with two young children who walked to Coleraine 18 months ago for supplies and of another family who walked from Dunloy to Ballymena to take advantage of the facility there.
“This is where we can really help,” Mr Rollins told the Times. “Even if people want to come in and have a chat about things we will be more than happy to receive them,” he added.
Once up and running and registered as a charity, the opportunity will present itself for the Food Bank organisers to apply for grants from a variety of sources.
Meanwhile, the public can help by donating food, funds or volunteering as well as holding a fund-raising event.
General enquiries can be made to 07565 840571 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org The website address is www.ballymoney.foodbank.org.uk