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Thursday, 1 October 2020


Scottish charity’s vital support boost for older people

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SCOTTISH charity Food Train launches new nationwide shopping service to reach even greater numbers of those in need of support in their homes.

A charity which has ensured thousands of older Scots forced into isolation during the lockdown have not gone without critical shopping supplies is expanding its lifeline services to help even more people.

Food Train, which provides vital support to help over-65s who are unable to manage independently – many of them disabled or suffering from ill-health – has seen a record-breaking 60% increase in people using its grocery shopping service since the start of the coronavirus crisis.

Its team of volunteers and staff are now getting groceries to 3,045 people across nine Scottish regions, compared to 1,905 before the pandemic. A huge proportion of them are shielding in their homes to protect themselves from the illness.

But, despite the pressures the surge has placed on its established operations, the charity has – in Volunteers Week – launching a new one-to-one service which it hopes will reach more of the most vulnerable older people in every part of Scotland.

Food Train Connects is an extension of the organisation’s award-winning shopping and delivery service, where teams of volunteers deliver van-loads of groceries to many people and store them away if needed. It will instead see over-65s matched with a specific volunteer shopper in their area who will carry out weekly grocery trips for them. The individual match means Food Train can reach people even in areas where it does not currently operate a physical branch with vans on the road.

Morna O’May, Food Train Connects

Morna O’May, Food Train Connects National Development Officer, said:

“The demand from older people needing help with their shopping has never been greater because of the restrictions which have had to be put in place because of Covid-19. The pandemic has proven a powerful reminder of the difference our charity makes to peoples’ lives – and we want to help as many as possible.

“The coronavirus crisis has brought out the best in Scotland’s caring spirit and people in many communities are doing a brilliant job of helping those around them by getting groceries to them. The aim of Food Train Connects is to fill any gaps there may be in this provision – as well as providing a long-term operation which will get food to peoples’ homes even after the current restrictions are lifted.

“We already have volunteers signed up. They’re ready to help us improve the quality of life for more older people in their own homes and we want anyone – wherever they are in Scotland – who thinks they or someone they know would benefit from this new service to get in touch. We’re here to help.”

Food Train volunteer shopping

As well as intensifying its shopping service during the coronavirus lockdown – with volunteers adhering to public health guidance at all times – Food Train has carried out more than 4,300 check-in calls with over-65s as part of its national befriending project and has continued to deliver hundreds of meals nationally every week as part of its Meal Makers scheme.

Since the start of the pandemic, the number of shopping service volunteers supporting Food Train has risen from about 800 to almost 1,100, currently working across Dumfries & Galloway, West Lothian, Stirling, Dundee, Glasgow, Renfrewshire, East Renfrewshire, Clackmannanshire and the Scottish Borders. It has secured increased cash support from the Scottish Government and other funders to ensure demands on the service can be met. This has included employing a small number of temporary support staff.

Charlotte Andrews, 23, of Partick, Glasgow, started volunteering at Food Train’s Glasgow branch at the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak. She has taken shopping lists from older people over the phone, done shopping in supermarkets, been out on deliveries and has since been taken on as a support worker thanks to additional Scottish Government funding.

Charlotte Andrews, 23, of Partick, Glasgow, who works with Food Train

She said:

“The work carried out by Food Train gives a real insight into the challenges many of our older people face. While the situation with coronavirus is unprecedented, it has served to highlight the difficulties some people face on a daily basis, which is why I’m keen to do something which helps not just with the immediate problems, but longer-term too.”

To find out about how Food Train Connects could help you or someone you know, email shopping@thefoodtrain.co.uk or call 0800 3047924. To register as a volunteer, go to www.thefoodtrain.co.uk.

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