Jul 13 2012 by Andrew Burns, Dumfries Standard Friday
Leslie McWilliam, a volunteer at First Base in Dumfries, with one of the food parcels given to struggling families.
CASH-STRAPPED families are relying on charity food parcels to survive.
The number of households turning to Dumfries support groups for help has risen sharply, with 220 emergency packs handed out last month alone.
Mark Frankland, of the First Base charity in Buccleuch Street, said the shocking increase highlights the “worrying struggles” local families are facing.
“Last June we handed out 90 food parcels but that increased to 220 this June,” he said.
“We’ve seen a massive increase in the amount of family food packs that we distribute in just a year.
“It works out at a few pounds per day which is not exactly a lot but it goes a long way in helping hundreds of local families.”
Those seeking help are referred to First Base by agencies including Citizen’s Advice, Shelter, Welfare Rights and Women’s Aid.
The parcel scheme, funded by the council and donations, was launched eight years ago and since then thousands of food parcels have gone to referred individuals and families.
Last year more than 1,000 parcels were handed out and the number looks set to rise even further as the recession continues to hit struggling families.
Mr Frankland added: “Everyone that we help must have a referral from one of the agencies but the number that we get has increased significantly.
“In the past it has generally been single people that have got themselves in a bad way but recently there has been a lot of families.”
He said families fall on hard times for many reasons but redundancy and changes to tax credits have had a huge impact.
“These are working class people struggling to pay for shopping and it is an awful situation that so many are finding themselves in,” he added.
Sue Irving, chief executive of Dumfries and Galloway Citizens Advice Service, agrees that the demand from struggling families has “gone through the roof” and warned that the situation could still get worse.
She said: “More and more people are coming to us for help, many of whom have never had to before.
“The demand is going through the roof, not just for support with feeding their family, but in many different areas.
“It’s a worrying trend but it is a reflection of the current economic downturn and could get worse yet.
“Welfare reform will undoubtedly have a massive impact on local people already struggling financially and that is worrying.
“It is difficult for people to ask for help and many people will stick their head in the sand but it is important that any local people facing difficulties seek help.”
First Base received £1,000 this week from Scottish children’s charity Cash For Kids to purchase 100 more parcels which contain enough food to feed a family of four for three days.