Tesco is considering making a permanent arrangement to supply food to the Salvation Army after a huge uptake last week of its foodbank donation scheme.
A total of 192 trays of goods have today been ferrying their way from the Lerwick store to the charity’s premises in North Road.
The massive response is more than double the 84 trays filled in December – and this time over just three days, rather than a week.
The impressive tally is second only to Stornoway in the north of Scotland and islands. The Western Isles town pipped Lerwick to the post, with around 10 extra trays.
The contents of the trays will be distributed around the isles over the next few weeks to those who need it most.
The Salvation Army’s David Grieve said he was highly impressed by the public response.
“This is probably double what we got last November,” he said. “That was a good, basic stock. This will certainly be wonderful.
“There’s been no let up. We’re still running at a higher rate than last year.
“The whole operation of this is so impressive to see. The [Tesco] staff were enthusiastic about getting people involved in the scheme, and some people were donating baskets and trolley-loads of stuff. It wasn’t just one or two items.”
The link-up with the supermarket chain took place in conjunction with groups known as Fair Share – which aims to beat hunger by tackling food waste – and the Christian charity Trussell Trust, set up to help bring an end to hunger and poverty in the UK.
Salvation Army commanding officer Angela Nunn said all the food donated would be used locally.
“Normally it would go to the local Trussell Trust foodbank, but there isn’t one here,” she said. “And they used to send the food south, which is ridiculous. So it stays here now and goes out through us.”
Mrs Nunn said there was still a great need to provide the free food donations, and stressed some people in dire need were even going for a day or two without eating anything.
“Everyone we feed is in some kind of genuine crisis. We don’t want to call ourselves a foodbank – we talk about operating the emergency feeding service, and that’s what it is. It’s for emergencies. It’s for people who, otherwise, wouldn’t eat.
“Sadly, we regularly feed people who haven’t eaten for a couple of days – or not properly – while they are waiting to get a referral or have plucked up the courage to come and seek help from us. So, yes, there is a very definite need out there.”
That would seem to have been backed up by the figures. Mrs Nunn said 178 food parcels had been dispatched by the organisation this year alone until the end of June.
That works out at 29.7, on average, a month. Last year’s figures showed a monthly average of 23.6 for the whole of 2014, and that included extra supplies given out over Christmas.
Mrs Nunn expects the average per month to reach 33 by the end of this year. RBS, Market House and some churches in the town have acted as collection points for food donations.
Meanwhile, the Salvation Army has been asked to present evidence to the newly-formed Tackling Inequalities Commission when it holds its second meeting on 24th August.
Mrs Nunn said the organisation was “very blessed” with five volunteers who take responsibility for sorting out the donations. But the charity can take on more willing hands if anyone is keen to muck in.
Ashley Fuller of Tesco said: “It’s for our annual foodbanks that Tesco runs every year. Whatever we collected in the store it stays up in Shetland. It’s for the Salvation Army.
“We had our stall set out across the three days. It was really good fun because we just handed out little shopping lists with suggestions for the folk. It made sure it was all long-life stuff that was useful for the foodbanks.
“A hundred and ninety-two of our green trays got filled with food that customers and staff donated as they were shopping, which is incredible – they were all really, really generous. We’re all overwhelmed by how generous everyone was.”