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With food and energy prices soaring, inflation swiftly lapping social security payments to near redundancy and an overwhelming anxiety of how to budget for what looks to be a bleak year, food banks are playing an ever-crucial role to help alleviate hunger to those most in need.
To see first hand how food charities are helping the Edinburgh community, I visited Empty Kitchens Full Hearts, a charity setup in the advent of the pandemic, which turns surplus food into nutritious meals. Since April 2020 they have provided over 1.5 million meals.
As you enter the former primary school on West Granton Road, a strong sense of community spirit fills the space, as 30 volunteers cook and pack meals with smiles on their faces.
On the main floor, a long tables stretches across the room and is divided up into sections by the packing team, where they sort meals into various family sizes and distribute snacks that have been donated.
In the far corner of the building, energetic kitchen staff can be seen collectively putting together hundreds of meals and portions of soup from the plethora of surplus food from the day’s delivery.
The positive energy at the Granton charity, fuelled by smiles, laughter and passion is emotionally juxtaposed by the reason all these people have come together, forcing one to consider that for many households across the capital, this food bank delivers vital support during difficult times. For some it may be their only food for the next two days.
Two weeks ago, Empty Kitchens Full Hearts gained charity status from OSCR. I asked Fi Grant, co-head chef, how that felt and what it will mean for the future.
“It is fantastic news, but it’s also bitter sweet”, she replied.
Fi continued: “It just shows that we still do have a huge poverty problem within the city which I don’t think is going to get any better with the high cost of living.”
A quick glance at the whiteboard which stands in the centre of the main hall reveals the fruits of the teams labour. The day I spent there, 700 meals were made and packed by 12pm and out for delivery shorty afterwards.
In the rear courtyard, a former boxing gym now accommodates the tonnes of surplus food that arrives on a daily basis via the organisation’s effective food network, before being transformed into a lifeline for the wider community.
The abundance of raw ingredients is only rivalled by the raw selflessness of the volunteers and staff.
Witnessing the extent of available food, and seeing how volunteer’s hours can produce healthy meals from them, highlights that there is no problem with food supply, only the cost of living that removes some people’s access to it.