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Kirriemuir Food Hub Still Going Strong

A community food hub that was set up as a short-term project to help people suffering food poverty at the start of the coronavirus lockdown is still going strong almost a year later.

The Kirriemuir Food Hub was formed last April with the dual mission of combatting food insecurity and reducing food waste by repurposing and redistributing food.

And 11 months later, the service, which helps hundreds of people every week, is still playing a key role in enhancing the community.

Lindsey Wilson, who is one of 17 volunteers who help out at the hub which is based at the rear of the town’s Three Bellies Brae pub, revealed a project that began 11 months ago with only two people to help the community has mushroomed into a vital service.

She said: “We started out as a couple of volunteers last April when the whole coronavirus thing started. We were volunteers with Voluntary Action Angus and everyone was doing other people’s shopping, getting prescriptions and things like that.

“I said, because we have the Three Bellies Brae pub in Kirriemuir, that I was sitting there with an empty building not doing anything and maybe we should utilise it in some way and we came up with this kind of foodbank style thing to help people.

“There were so many people who suddenly had no money. By the time you register to get on Universal Credit for instance, people were just finding themselves in a situation that they had never been in before.

“We set this up thinking it’ll only be for a couple of months, kind of keep us busy, do our bit of good for the community, but it has evolved because the need for it has not diminished.

“Who knew a year later we would still be in lockdown with more and more people losing their jobs? And as we come out of furlough more people will lose their jobs.”

As the food hub has grown, it has also changed the way it operates, with partnerships formed with supermarkets, Co-op’s Foodshare and FairShare.

Lindsey continued: “We have tried to evolve it by having a reducing food waste aspect because when we set up and we get the end of day stuff from the Co-op through Foodshare it made us aware of how much actual waste there was.

“It also provides an in for people that feel a bit uncomfortable to come and get stuff by us saying: ‘Well, why don’t you come and get stuff to help reduce food waste’.

“Now, we’ve really grown, we get from Tesco, Asda, Foodshare, FairShare and we tick both boxes – we are trying to help those with food insecurity and we are helping to reduce food waste at the same time.

“And we make sure that the right food goes to the right people.

“If you’re only looking to reduce food waste that is all we will offer you. People buy stuff for us to give to those in need, so that doesn’t go out as it has been bought to help people so we keep it all separate so the right stuff goes to the right people.

“We are still running from the pub but we have separated it with this bit at the back which is the food hub and it has its own entrance so we can run them both concurrently when the pub opens again. The pub was open for a wee while before Christmas when we were allowed to and the two ran side by side and it can be done.”

Lindsey says that the Covid-19 outbreak has hit everyone hard – and there are lots of people who never thought they would need help using the facility.

She continued: “It has been quite an eye-opener with regards to the people that have been affected. Without generalising things, there are people that you would expect to need to use a foodbank-style place but this coronavirus has been such a leveller there have been people you would never have expected to be in the position of needing help.

“They have gone from being comfortable, stereotypical 2.2 kids, both parents working and suddenly they’re not working, and there are people who are not eligible for very much – or people that are on furlough getting 80% when they could barely get by on 100%.

“There is also the add-on of everyone being at home using more electricity, so I think we have been a Godsend to people.

“This year since January, we have really upped the game a bit, we are higher profile and a lot more people are using us to help reduce food waste and they are getting more involved. People are being a little less judgmental and we are trying to make it more of a community Foodshare concept.”

The hundreds using the food hub have really embraced the ethos behind it by interacting with the group’s Facebook page to show what they have made with the produce provided.

And many are making dishes they have never made before in their lives and adding new skills to their repertoire.

“I would say we are helping between 200 and 300 people a week,” added Lindsey. “We keep a record of whether they have two kids, five kids and their pets, the pets get fed as well. We keep a note of any allergies, what storage space they have, do they have a fridge? Do they have a freezer? Do they cook? Can they cook? That way we can give the right stuff to the right people.

“The pictures that people have sent back to us of what they have made and how the food hub has helped them area great.

“We also try and help people use what they maybe haven’t before, like for instance spinach, not everyone knows what to do with it.

“We look at what we have a bulk of and try to create easy recipes for people so that we can say: There’s the spinach, there’s the chickpeas, there’s the chopped tomatoes and then just give them a little sachet with all the herbs they need and they can go away and cook it themselves and that seems to be going really well.

“People are enjoying trying to make something that they would never have made in a million years. It is a good way of using stuff that people maybe wouldn’t ever use. We are trying to be a little innovative.”

Lindsey is keen to point out that every volunteer is playing a vital role in something that has become a key part of the Kirrie community.

“It’s not all about me, there is a huge team of volunteers behind this – it’s a real community effort,” she said.

“We started off as two people who were basically here every day for the first six months, but there are 17 volunteers now that help in one way or another by collecting stuff from the supermarkets, delivering it to people who can’t get out or manning the hub.”

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