Hundreds of families avail of food parcels

Darren Beattie

Reporter:

Darren Beattie

Email:

darren.beattie@tyronecon.co.uk

OVER 400 families, mostly in the Hospital Road area of Omagh, have already been provided with free food parcels, thanks to the area's hardworking and generous community association.

The group behind the thoughtful initiative is the Hospital Road Community Association and backed by a council grant of over £3,000, they have been distributing food parcels to families in need of support in the midst of the coronavirus crisis.

The group's youth and community officer, Kerry Fegan, who is the main coordinator, explained: "I know all of the young people in this area - they're off school and some were struggling when they were at school. Something needed to be set up."

A number of volunteers came together and thanks to the backing of the council, they were able to buy the necessary food to meet the demand.

Each lunch pack consists of bread, ham, cheese, butter, juice and other snacks. It is another example of a local community pulling together in response to a global pandemic, as members of the Blair Memorial Flute Band and Omagh True Blues Flute Band deliver the food parcels.

"It's also a good way to keep an eye on the elderly and to keep in regular contact with them," continued Kerry, who is the youth and community leader of the association. She has replaced running the local youth club with managing the food parcel distributions.

The group delivered leaflets to 1,500 homes in the area informing them of the food supply service - but Kerry was surprised by the significant level of demand.

"Last week, we delivered 60 food parcels a day, though it has eased off a little this week. We are going to keep providing this service until the COVID-19 crisis is over.

‘Helped’

"I would say we have already helped 400 families - and we are getting more families coming to us every day."

Food parcels have also been distributed to residents at Castleview and the Arleston Road, but the majority have been in the Hospital Road area.

"The Spar shop on the Hospital Road has been brilliant," continued Kerry. "We go twice a day and they have adjusted their stock to accommodate us."

With so many families in need of support, is there a concern the money provided by the council may run out?

"The council has told us when the money starts running out that we can reapply. I have to say the council has been very quick off the mark, we had funding four days after our application."

As well as the council grant, the group has also received a number of cash donations from generous members of the community only happy to help.

"It's fantastic to see that everyone is willing to help in such a scary situation."

To support Kerry, call 07920383098

Fermanagh and Omagh District Council has received requests from over 830 households for almost 1,160 food parcels through its Community Coordination Hub.

The Hub responds to requests received from the NI Covid-19 Community Helpline to assist residents who have become isolated and vulnerable due to the impacts of coronavirus.

"The Hub is working with the local community and voluntary sector to ensure those most at risk have access to support services such as food, medication, practical and emotional support," said a council spokesperson.

‘Self-referral’

"The council has also developed an online self-referral process to expedite requests for food parcels. The parcels are provided by the Department for Communities for residents who are unable to leave their homes to access food due to Covid-19 restrictions, who do not have support through family or friends, access to food deliveries from local suppliers or face food insecurity. To date, the Hub has received requests from over 830 households for almost 1,160 food parcels."

Meanwhile, Pastor Graham McElhinney, of the REACH Food Bank on Market Street, said the demand for their services has more than doubled since the coronavirus crisis began.

"We would have been giving out a bag or two every day before," explained Pastor Graham. "Now we are providing five or six bags per day. There are 12 or 13 people in Omagh receiving our bags daily.

"The government has been amazing by giving people 80 per cent of their wages, but if you need 100 per cent of your wages to live your normal life then 80 per cent could put you under the breadline.

"If someone is brave enough to pull our door open or make a call we will never refuse you.

"We usually offer three foodbags and they come with five days of food in each bag for breakfast, lunch and dinners.

"There's an assumption that it's people on benefits or foreign nationals who are in need, but we have seen a lot of people from Omagh and the surrounding areas coming for the food bank. Working families who are struggling to keep their heads above water, people who don't have any more savings. This is a service we have always provided and will continue to provide until it's not needed any more."

To help, contact Pastor Graham on 07718915435.

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