Civil Rights campaigner, Bernadette McAliskey will be one of the speakers at next week’s ‘Standing up to Poverty in Fermanagh’, with the Trussell Trust revealing that there has been a 20 per cent increase in foodbank users in Enniskillen alone.

Mrs. McAliskey has spent most of her life speaking up for the underprivileged, and is not afraid to highlight social inequalities and injustices – something which she has done regularly in her column in this newspaper in recent months.

The Impartial Reporter has partnered with the Trussell Trust, the Northern Ireland Anti-Poverty Network, Enniskillen Foodbank, Arc Healthy Living Centre, Action for Children and other relevant organisations to highlight the struggles faced by those in the county at the event soon to take place at South West College.

In the lead-up to the upcoming event on Thursday, November 23, The Impartial Reporter has launched a foodbank appeal with a complimentary paper bag, thanks to the generous sponsorship of Encirc, which will be in next week’s edition for readers to fill up and contribute to their local foodbank.

It has never been more timely to help out your local food bank.

John Shades, manager of Enniskillen Foodbank, said they were feeding 127 people per week on average, and that in the lead-up to Christmas, the demand on foodbanks could increase if families have to make the hard choice between heating or eating.

Enniskillen Foodbank – which has a food bank in Enniskillen, Belleek, Irvinestown and Newtownbutler – currently operate six sessions per week alongside other organisations that offer similar services.

Record number

It is part of a grim picture which is mirrored across Northern Ireland, as the Trussell Trust revealed this week that their network of foodbanks distributed a record number of emergency food parcels (39,334) between April and September of this year – more than ever before for these six months, and marking the largest such increase in the UK.

The data released on Wednesday by the Trussell Trust showed low incomes, especially from social security, debt, health conditions and issues with social security payments such as delays or sanctions, were the main reasons people were left with no option but to turn to a food bank for help.

A record 16,659 food parcels were provided for 8,409 children living in families who could not afford the essentials. This marks a 24 per cent increase compared to the same period last year.

Jonnie Currie, National Lead at the Trussell Trust in Northern Ireland, said: “These statistics are extremely alarming. 

“An increasing number of children in Northern Ireland are growing up in families facing hunger, forced to turn to food banks to survive.

“A generation is growing up believing that it’s normal to see a food bank in every community. This is not right. 

“Rising hunger and hardship have devastating consequences for individuals and our communities, damage health and hold back our economy.

“People in work, as well as people who cannot work, are increasingly being pushed into debt and forced to turn to a food bank to survive.

“We urgently need the Northern Ireland Executive restored so it can utilise its devolved powers to prioritise policies that will protect people from poverty, such as the full implementation of recommendations from the reviews of welfare mitigations and discretionary support, and the delivery of an anti-poverty strategy.”