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Minister praises multi-agency approach as over 23,000 food packages are delivered to the vulnerable

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Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 23rd April 2020 - Communities Deirdre Hargey with Marie Fennell, joint coordinator of the community food bank in Duncairn Arts Centre and Jackie Donnelly, Volunteer. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey MLA, today praised council staff and local voluntary and community groups for enabling the delivery of more than 23,000 food packages to the most vulnerable in society during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Minister visited Mid Ulster District Council’s Food Distribution Centre at the Mid Ulster Sports Arena in Cookstown – one of 24 food distributions centres established by the councils.

Earlier in the day, the Minister also saw first-hand the vital contribution being made by voluntary and community groups when she visited 174 Trust in North Belfast. A food hub has been set up in Duncairn Arts Centre.

Minister Hargey said: “My Department has led on this very important piece of work, however, it would not be possible without the dedication and commitment of a number of key partners including the Local Councils, Health Trusts, food suppliers and of course the Community and Voluntary Sector who are working at the grass roots of this crisis.

“These are very challenging times for all of us, however there are those in society who are facing the added pressure of self-isolating and some facing food insecurity and this service is absolutely vital in helping to alleviate that pressure.”

The food package service has been in operation since 7 April and was set up to help those most at risk of food insecurity due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This includes those who are shielding having been contacted by their GPs, as well as people who are financially vulnerable or who may be experiencing difficulties physically accessing food.

The food packages are delivered to the Council hubs and, from there, are distributed by Council employees, often working with local voluntary and community organisations.

This initiative, which has been led by the Department for Communities, has seen the number of food boxes rising week on week, with referrals coming in from a number of sources including the Department’s Covid-19 Community Helpline, the HSC Trust Triage service and the local community and voluntary sector.

Minister Hargey concluded: “I have been impressed with how quickly and effectively partners have pulled together to mobilise this scheme. It was heartening to hear from those delivering the food parcels to the door of those in need of the positive impact the service is having on their lives at this difficult time.”

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