Hope Kitchen to reopen but future demand is a concern

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Hope Kitchen in Oban plans to reopen on Thursday to takeaway lunches and groups.

Prior to the coronavirus, the ‘Helping Our People Eat’ charity on Soroba Road, allowed walk-ins but will now be offering takeaway lunches between 11.30am-1.30pm.

Any customer can use the takeaway service with people asked to pay what they can afford with a minimum donation of £1.

It will also welcome back social groups between 2pm-4pm, with friendship being a key part of what it offers.

The plan is to see how the arrangement goes until mid-September and then review the return of sit-down meals.

The Christian-led charity had to close its doors on March 16, although at the height of lockdown it was distributing up to 230 food parcels a week across Oban and Mull.

This week alone, it expects to be delivering in the region of 90 food parcels.

However, service manager Catriona Petit said the likely demand in the next few months was uncertain but generally it helped around 250 people a week.

People who had never used the food bank before had started to come forward, she said, having lost jobs in industries including tourism and construction.

As furlough schemes wind down and grants dry-up, she expects demand for the service to come under increased pressure, with longer-term solutions needed if the town sees  redundancies this autumn and winter.

On average, the charity receives the equivalent of around four trolley loads of donated food a week. This consists of donations handed in by the public, or left at collection points in Tesco and Lidl.

The two supermarkets, along with M&S in Oban, also donate ‘short date’ food, and that is topped up by local shopkeepers too.

Ms Petit encouraged people to still seek support from Hope Kitchen if they are struggling for food, and said while the charity was able to help in a crisis, it would not be able to indefinitely support new waves of people coming forward.

Ms Petit said: ‘It’s an area that’s a big concern for Hope Kitchen. Exactly how the next few months will pan out, we don’t know, but we would not want the food bank to become an extension of the welfare system.

‘Many people can be an unexpected bill away from disaster and we are concerned that if many people are made redundant and have to go on to Universal Credit, they can wait up to five weeks and there may be an expectation that we can bridge the gap.

‘This is the 21st century and we should not have anywhere where people are reliant on a food bank.’

Those needing help can contact 01631 565730 or email obanhopekitchen@gmail.com