People not Numbers

There has been a lot of talk over recent months on the desire to close Food Banks. We are an apolitical organisation and have no stance on political issues. However, we are aware of some of the arguments around proposed closures and wanted to share this update from Cupar’s Food Bank to make more aware of the work that’s delivered in support of some of our community’s most vulnerable.

The following is a precis of the annual report published by the Food Bank at the end of March 2023. We have not included all of the statistics but we have tried to emphasise the work and support delivered to those in and around Cupar.

The town’s Food Bank helps those across the majority of North East Fife. It works with supporting agencies in providing and delivering emergency food to those in most need. In the last 12 months, Cupar’s Food Bank has actioned 840 referrals. What does that mean? In short, 840 different referrals have been given to the Food Bank requesting support for those who need help.

Those referrals have come from more than 40 different organisations working in health and social care across our wider catchment:

  1. Adults East 3 Team
  2. Bank Street Medical Practice
  3. Brag Enterprises
  4. Burnside Hostel
  5. Community Voice
  6. Cosy Kingdom
  7. Cupar Foodbank Emergency
  8. Elmwood College
  9. Families First
  10. Family Nurse Partnership
  11. Fife Carers
  12. Fife Council Criminal Justice
  13. Fife Council Cupar Children and Families
  14. Fife Council Housing
  15. Fife Council Learning & Development
  16. Fife Council Revenue
  17. Fife Council Social Services
  18. Fife Council Welfare Support Worker
  19. Fife Forum
  20. Fife Voluntary Action
  21. Fife Women’s Aid
  22. Fife Young Carers
  23. Frontline Fife
  24. Homestart
  25. Kingdom Abuse Survivors Project
  26. Ladybank Primary School
  27. Link Living
  28. NEF Health Visiting Team
  30. Rock Trust
  31. SACRO
  32. Scottish Welfare Fund
  33. St Andrews Nursery
  34. St Columba’s Church
  35. Tarvit Mill
  36. The Family support Service
  37. Victim Support Scotland
  38. Westfield Family Nurture Centre
  39. Weston Day Hospital
  40. Young Peoples Team

The support delivered as a result of these referrals has helped provide emergency and, in some cases, life saving provisions for over 2,000 people – around 60% of them children. The total represents an increase of more than 30% on the previous year.

Around 50% of all the support delivered by the Food Bank is for those who live in the town – more than 1,000 people who at one time or another have relied on the project’s help in 2022.


One in 10

That equates to one in 10 of all who call Cupar their home. It is a stark statistic and one that puts paid to the notion that Cupar is a town that is not deserving of support – a line we have heard all too often from those in decision-making positions.

And there are many reasons as to why people are referred: they are people who have sought help and advice from one or more of the organisations listed above. In numerical order, the following are the lead reasons for referrals over the last year:

  1. Low income
  2. Benefit delays or changes to benefit
  3. Ill health
  4. Homelessness
  5. Debt or Delayed Wages
  6. Domestic Violence

By far the largest group of people needing support are single, often living on their own. And for the first time, the Food Bank is now measuring those needing help in the Over 75 age bracket.


People first …

Manager at the Food Bank, Joe Preece, is passionate about the work they deliver, saying: “Please try and remember that each of these figures is a human being and not just a number.” He and the team work hard with many other organisations to help deliver support wherever it is needed.

The annual report breaks down the weight of food that has been distributed – more than 25,000kg in total.


Christmas …

The Food Bank makes a huge difference year round but it is more keenly felt at Christmas time. They distributed 72 hampers in the final countdown to Christmas Day – the last delivery to a single parent with four children at 5:45pm on Friday the 23rd. Joe says: “To say it was greatly received by the family, would be an understatement.

The Christmas meals supported 268 people – 129 adults and 139 Children.  A large selection of toys was also available for collection from their own Santa’s Grotto, ensuring children had a present to open on Christmas Day. The gammon and turkeys were paid for by the Food Bank from money that had been donated.

The vegetables and potatoes were kindly donated by Kettle Produce and the Roundtable respectively.


Donations of produce …

Twice in the year, the Food Bank takes part in the National Tesco collections. The local collection was organised in conjunction with Tesco’s Community Champion, Elaine Brailsford. On two of the collection days at both events, they were supported by members of Rotary who manned the collection stall. Joe says: “This was a great help allowing us to collect and sort the food whilst keeping the foodbank open.

They have established Permanent Collection Points (PCP) in the following Cupar locations:

  1. Aldi
  2. CO-OP
  3. Lidl
  4. Nationwide
  5. Tesco

Joe adds: “In addition, we have signed an agreement with Baynes in Cupar to collect their surplus bread. We collect chicken from Nando’s in St Andrews. The chicken is cooked and then frozen by Nando’s. Our service users can then defrost and eat it. this cuts down on their own energy costs.

Joe reports that, currently, collections and donations of stock are declining as “everyone feels the pinch“. He adds: “It is not unusual for stock levels to decline at this time of year due to donor fatigue after Christmas. I hope, as in previous years that this will pick up after Easter.



  1. Concessionary Travel Scheme: the Food Bank gives out bus tickets to enable people to get home after collecting their emergency food. In the main, tickets have been distributed to clients travelling to Tarvit Mill and Ladybank.
  2. The Foodbank Laundry: the Laundry has been running for four hours every Wednesday (1200 to 1600). Funding for the electricity to run the service was sourced from the Trussell Trust.
  3. Fuel Bank: Joe explains: “We are now registered as a Fuel Bank. This means that we can now refer Individuals who have a foodbank referral, for gas and electricity top ups. This is only for people who are on pre-payment meters. We are not permitted to refer people for support who are not in procession of a foodbank referral.
  4. CARF – to provide a Financial Inclusion service at the Foodbank: primarily, this will facilitate advice around welfare benefits and debt. Citizens Advice will also facilitate access to advice in all areas that they offer advice, if this is required. The service will be provided on a Friday from 1000-1800hrs. Funding for this service has been sourced from the Trussell Trust.


The year ahead …

Joe expresses his concerns over the increase in users who have had no referral and are unsure where to go to for support. He says: “We continue to be very busy, but are managing to hold our own, thanks to the support from the volunteers and the generosity of all those who continue to donate food.

And it is that support – from those who live and work in Cupar as well as a multitude of community partners – that cannot be quantified when discussions take place over the future of Food Banks. In blunt terms, 1 in 10 Cuparians have made use of the Food Bank in the last year. They have been referred by more than 40 health and social care organisations – more than 25% of which are Fife Council departments.

In other areas, direct payments are being made to those in need – often in the form of a charged card that the recipient is expected to use to buy food and essentials. But as Joe points out, such initiatives take no account of the recipient’s ability to manage the money, especially when taking account of the often very strained personal circumstances they may be in. And issuing charged cards removes any personal 1-2-1 contact. Joe and his team are there with a listening ear – and are able to help and direct those in need to other organisations where additional support may be available. Closing the Food Bank would remove that crucial face to face support. It would also damage and potentially end the good-spirited community support – be it volunteers, donations or the very successful links that have been built to harness the CSR initiatives of leading local retailers.

We have been proud to support the Food Bank and will continue to do so; it may well be that – in its current set-up – things change, but we will do all we can to ensure the community connections and resulting good from the same are maintained for the benefit of all involved.


Thanks for reading.