Most businesses and organisations this week are reducing their opening hours in preparation for the Christmas holidays – all except Coalisland Community Food Bank, who are doing the very opposite – adding three additional days to their opening hours to cope with demand.
Insistent that families should not be made to choose between ‘heating and eating’ organisers have taken bookings for festive Christmas Hampers to help alleviate some of the financial pressure.
Speaking to Tyrone I, food bank organiser and Head of Committee Mary Woods said: “We are normally open one day a week with the phone always being there in case of emergencies but this week we are open Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings for collections.
“We have 35 Christmas food boxes booked to go out on Wednesday evening alone alongside our normal food parcels. They will have everything for a full Christmas dinner including a ham, chicken, stuffing and desserts. We don’t want anyone being left short.”
This has most certainly been a busier year than normal for Coalisland Community Food Bank. With rising costs across food, home heating and clothing, the strain has been noticeable amongst families.
Mary continued: “This has been a busier year, but busy in different ways. I noticed an increase over the Summer holidays, in particular, when kids were off school and parents were under increased pressure to provide for them.
“It was busier for us at the food bank in terms of getting parcels organised and ensuring we had enough for the demand.”
The hampers and food parcels provided by Coalisland Community Food Bank are largely comprised of food from supermarkets within the local area, bought and paid for by the food bank itself.
However, Mary explained that whilst they do receive some government grants and support towards the purchase of goods they are indebted to the support and donations from local businesses.
She said: “We are so lucky to have the support of so many local businesses. On occasion they will donate vouchers and, if we can, we use the vouchers to buy food from our local supermarkets. We like to give back to them as much as we can.”
Whilst Coalisland Community Food Bank cover the Coalisland district primarily, they have in the past had requests from outside their normal range and to this Mary said, “I could never turn anyone away. We will always try to help everyone who comes to us needing support”.