Today the Leader launches its Christmas appeal to bring some added festive sparkle to local families. Feed Our Families will run until Christmas and aims to provide extra food and festive goodies to those in need in and around Louth.
We all have our own idea of the perfect Christmas. But, chances are, at the heart of it is the family clustered around a table laden with food.
Sharing Christmas dinner is one of the magic moments of the season – even if the pressure to get everything just right can add a large helping of festive stress.
But what if the worry was not whether the roast potatoes would be crisped to perfection, but if you could afford to put food on the table at all?
That is the stark reality facing hundreds of families across our region. The anguish of wondering how you will pay for your next meal is bad enough at any time.
At Christmas, as others look forward to turkey, pudding, and ‘maybe just one more mince pie’, it must feel more crushing than ever.
In the coming weeks our local foodbanks will be calling for help to bring some seasonal cheer to people struggling to buy even the basics of life.
All year round they provide an emergency lifeline to families and individuals who – for all kinds of reasons – suddenly find they don’t know where their next meal is coming from.
Food boxes packed with donated non-perishable staples like pasta, canned vegetables and fish, and breakfast cereals are handed out to people in need. But in November and December they step up a gear to ensure they can give not just the essentials, but some of the seasonal luxuries most of us take for granted.
Christmas cakes, puddings, mince pies and biscuits, will be needed and, as ever, the foodbanks are depending on kind-hearted donors to help.
Regular collection points exist in each town and in some cases extra ones are added as Christmas approaches. They are often put in supermarkets in the hope that shoppers will buy extra items to donate.
Ten years ago, foodbanks were a rarity. Now it is more unusual to find a town without one. In market towns where the idea of a family going hungry was once unthinkable, scores of food parcels may be provided every month.
The reasons vary enormously. It could be the sudden loss of income through redundancy, benefit delays, or family break-ups. Proposed cuts in working tax credits and child benefit are causing concern for fear more families will find themselves unable to cope.
For recipients, going for the first time to collect a food parcel is often one of the hardest steps they have ever had to take. But the foodbank organisers stress that it could happen to almost anyone.
As one put it: “We tell people, you need help today. It could be us tomorrow.”