RBS Edinburgh headquarters becomes foodbank distribution centre

Appeal to businesses to donate food for most vulnerable

Friday, 27th March 2020, 6:00 am
Updated Friday, 27th March 2020, 7:18 am
RBS Edinburgh headquarters becomes foodbank distribution centre
RBS Edinburgh headquarters becomes foodbank distribution centre

ROYAL Bank of Scotland has turned part of its headquarters at Gogarburn into a foodbank distribution centre to ensure much-needed help is available for some of society’s most vulnerable people.

The bank has teamed up with the Trussell Trust and Social Bite and is asking businesses to donate non-perishable food and hygiene products to help keep the two food poverty charities well-stocked during the coronavirus crisis.

The Evening News and The Scotsman are also part of the effort to make sure people who are struggling for essentials do not have to go without.

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The conference centre at RBS's Gogarburn campus is being used to gather food donations from businesses

The temporary distribution centre opened this morning in the conference centre at RBS’s Gogarburn campus. It is being staffed by volunteers from the bank’s workforce.

Malcolm Buchanan, chair of RBS’s Scotland board, said: “This is a challenging time for everyone in Scotland and we are delighted to work with The Scotsman, Edinburgh Evening News, the Trussell Trust and Social Bite to help make a difference to some of the most vulnerable people in our communities.

“This is a time when everyone can work together to help support each other and we are calling on the public and companies who have the time or the resource and to get involved.

“Our Gogarburn conference centre will become a temporary food distribution centre for the Trussell Trust and Social Bite, with many of our colleagues volunteering their time to support and help these groups reach as many deserving people and families as possible.”

Programme manager Sheena Hales came up with the idea after hearing about logistical problems faced by Social Bite

The idea of using the bank’s headquarters as a centre to help some of the poorest people in Edinburgh came from Sheena Hales, a programme manager at Gogarburn.

She was among a group of women who stepped in after 350 workers lost their jobs at Livingston factory Kaiam just before Christmas 2018 and raised money for food and presents for those affected.

Ms Hales, from East Calder, said she had heard of the logistical problems faced by Social Bite in trying to respond to the current crisis.

“They thought there might be a lot of restaurants, pubs, offices and other premises which had had to close but had stocks of food they could donate. But Social Bite didn’t have the facilities to house it.”

The distribution centre will be open 7am-7pm every day with a drive-in donation system for businesses to drop off goods.

She emailed one of her bosses at RBS and the bank quickly said it could open the conference centre to help.

RBS’s catering contractors Baxter Storey and Benugo have already pledged to donate food from the bank’s kitchens. Ms Hales said: “We hope other organisations will follow suit.”

Items needed by the Trussell Trust’s foodbanks and Social Bite include: cereal, tinned soup, dried pasta, rice, tinned tomatoes/pasta sauce, tinned or dried lentils, beans and pulses, tinned meat, tinned fruit and vegetables, cereal bars, crackers and biscuits, tea and coffee, long-life milk and fruit juice, pet food, soap, hand wash, gloves, masks, toilet rolls and other toiletries.

The distribution centre will be open 7am-7pm every day with a drive-in donation system for businesses to drop off goods. The volunteers staffing it will be kitted out with personal proactive equipment to ensure their own safety and that of others.

However, donations from the public cannot be accepted at Gogarburn because of social distancing rules. People are urged to donate instead at existing supermarket collection points.

Laura Ferguson, operations manager at the Trussell Trust, said foodbanks were a lifeline for people in crisis during the coronavirus pandemic.

She said: “We’re extremely grateful for the support from RBS which helps us remain agile to respond to the changing situation and deploy resources to support people who don’t have enough money for the essentials throughout this time. We couldn’t continue to do what we do without this kind of support.”

And Josh Littlejohn, co-founder of Social Bite, said people who were homeless or in food poverty needed support more now than ever.

“We are proud to be working with the teams on this initiative to help donated items reach those most in need.”

Social Bite is aiming to produce and distribute 4,000 free fresh meals to vulnerable people every day for the next three months.

Livingston SNP MP Hannah Bardell gave her support to the Gogarburn initiative. She said: “Many people are finding themselves in need of support from charities like the Trussell Trust and Social Bite for the first time. These charities are already doing vital work in our communities and need your help.

“I’d urge anyone who can support this campaign to rally around and support their local foodbanks, whether that’s by volunteering their time, donating money or any food or hygiene products.”