HAZEL Thompson, manager at Kate’s Kitchen, has watched demand steadily grow and her view is that delays in receiving benefits cause most of the problems.
She said: “Demand is increasing all the time. It’s weird. It’s generally a steady increase and in any one week we can give out 13 food parcels but, on
occasion, we can give out that number in one day.
“When we’re at our pop-up kitchens in Langholm and Lockerbie we can hand out six parcels. We also provide a hot lunch and support sessions.
“We have two support workers who can help with things like getting housing, maintaining tenancies and ensuring people are getting all their benefits.
“We also help them apply for Universal Credit, all of which is online.
“If someone is looking for a job at the Jobcentre, they must provide evidence that they’ve applied for so many jobs each week.
“They have an online journal and they have to upload everything on to it. We have a computer in Annan and people can come in to update their journals. Anything, which people need, we do in Kate’s Kitchen.
“We rely on volunteers who come in on service days to prepare, cook and serve the food.”
Hazel said the reason most people came in was that they were waiting for their benefits to come through, mainly
Universal Credit, and it could take up to eight weeks. In the meantime, they had nothing.
She added: “There is a lot of in-work poverty, too. Food prices are rising and people’s wages are low. It’s a shame we’re needed but we’re a lifeline.
“Child poverty is a problem and the council now runs a school holiday programme so kids can get a meal.”
Kate’s Kitchen works with other organisations and is
involved with the council’s anti-poverty strategy. Two members of Kate’s Kitchen sit on the steering group so they can inform the strategy.
They also work with the council on adult learning, including running a computer class.
She said: “It’s about trying to move people on, give them support and upskill them so they can go on to further training.
“A girl came to us from the care system and she’s now doing a Business Gateway course so she can set up her own business.
“We also do budgeting advice with the Cumberland Building Society which helps with accounts and savings.”
Kate’s Kitchen started with two volunteers in a church hall before moving into premises in Bank Street. They have now moved into the former Royal Bank of Scotland building which gives them the potential to
develop more services.
Hazel believes they have had an influence, particularly with the participatory budget, through which the public can vote for organisations to get council funding.
In February she will give a talk to Langholm Academy pupils about poverty and what Kate’s Kitchen is about.