HAVING seen food bank referrals jump by 80 per cent since the beginning of lockdown, Selkirk Food Bank co-ordinator Peter Birney doesn’t anticipate a reduction in demand any time soon - despite the Scottish Government’s announcement of a move to phase two on its coronavirus route map.

“In recent years the main users of the service have been single people,” said Mr Birney, “but we're now getting a lot more referrals from family groups – many for the first time.

“There’s every likelihood this number will rise in the coming months, as local firms cut staff numbers in the wake of downturns in trade, or in some cases because they have ceased trading altogether."

Mr Birney added: “There's no stigma attached to accepting food bank assistance.

“Each referral is completely confidential, with initial contact having been made by social services, health care professionals, ministers of religion, teachers or housing associations.”

Coping with the current level of increased demand has, however, been greatly facilitated by the generosity of the Selkirk community, as well as by the sterling efforts of the food bank’s team of local volunteers.

“As we enter phase two of lockdown [being lifted], we would like to publicly express our thanks to all those who have enabled Selkirk Food Bank to keep going,” said Mr Birney.

“One individual in particular has been a great source of inspiration – single-handedly collecting food items from local collection points, making sure our shelves are fully stocked, and assembling food parcels ready for delivery.

"He shuns publicity so must remain nameless, but his efforts on a daily basis have been invaluable.”

Mr Birney also paid tribute to volunteers who have used their own transport to deliver food parcels, especially when the pandemic was at its peak, and praised the food bank’s treasurer for balancing its books and monitoring cash flow.

“Last, but not least, come those local community groups and members of the public, whose generous donations of stock and cash have enabled the food bank to keep going – even when they themselves have been struggling to cope with reduced income levels.”

Mr Birney made particular mention of Selkirk Rugby Club’s players and coaches, who collectively walked, ran or cycled 1,917 kilometres in less than a fortnight to raise over £2,000 for the food bank.

“Throughout this period the Selkirk Food Bank team has never ceased to be amazed by the generosity of people living in the town and surrounding areas,” said Mr Birney, “and by their ingenuity in finding new ways of raising money.

“So on behalf of all the Selkirk Food Bank team, and the people who have benefitted from your generosity and support, can I say a massive ‘thank you’.”