Almost 200 people are helped out discreetly every week by volunteers at the SVP food bank

By Maurice Garvey

ON A Friday morning in Cherry Orchard, a steady stream of people line up for a food bank, gratefully accepting basic essentials to keep their family afloat.

It is run by volunteers from the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP), and feeds between 150 to 180 per week – although due to resources, lately they alternate between once a week, or once every two weeks.

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Shay Carew, Rita Carroll, Phyllis Bracken, Kay Byrne, Br Finian Gavin and Marie Cronin

The discreet nature of the food bank has even been used as a template by the EU, who visited the Orchard Community Centre in early 2018.

On a visit to the centre last week, The Echo observed a variety of people availing of the service, young, old, non-nationals – each person delighted to come away with some food to keep them going.

“Manpower is the big problem,” explains Marie Cronin, SVP vice-president of the area.

“If we had a couple of younger volunteers to help offload pallets on a Monday at 3pm, and to pack bags on a Tuesday or Wednesday. In SVP our age group is very old and the pallets and bags can be quite heavy. Some local men might be working shift work, or on a day off. Three-quarters-of-an-hour would do it.”

Everyone who uses the food bank has been vetted by SVP.

Usually when they arrive at the Orchard Centre, they receive a ticket at the front door, and wait in the coffee dock, with one person at a time moving into another room to collect their food from SVP volunteers.

The first thing you notice upon arrival is the sheer scale and size of the delicious-looking bread on the table, which is donated to charities by Bretzel Bakery in Portobello.

A few teachers from local schools are in to pick up food for their after-school clubs, and after that there is a steady stream of people, mostly mothers, but also a fair few men.

One Cherry Orchard mother, who did not wish to give her name said: “To be honest if I didn’t get half of this, I wouldn’t be able to feed my kids.

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“The extra little bits really help, especially at Christmas. I have three kids and two grandkids living with me. Most of my community are in need of this.”

The bags contain food such as cereal, beans, peas, marmalade, jam, pasta, tuna and soup.

On occasion, some people might be in dire straits, but Marie says they do what they can.

Marie continued: “We don’t cut people off, they can keep coming. The majority of them, if they have enough stock at home, will stop coming, or hand back cereal or beans.”

Looking ahead, Marie is scouting another location in lower Ballyfermot.

“The Civic isn’t suitable. It needs to be ground floor, in terms of access. A number of people can’t make it down. They might be old, or sick, and the bags are heavy.”

SVP volunteers deliver to some of the most vulnerable users, but hope another food bank in lower Ballyfermot will provide help to more people in the community.

Anyone who can help offload pallets or pack bags for an hour between Monday to Wednesday, is encouraged to leave their details at reception of the Orchard Community Centre.

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