An “outpouring” of generosity from Scots is helping to warm hearts and stave of the hunger of those battling hardship this Christmas.
More than 500,000 meals have been donated to the Trussell Trust, which runs 50 food banks across Scotland, following a national three-day supermarket collection this month, with more packages arriving from individuals, churches and businesses determined to spread some cheer.
There have been extraordinary tales of giving by ordinary people, from the man who gave three tins of soup and beans to the Aberdeen North food bank to say thank you for helping him through a tough time to the half a tonne of food that arrived there on a single day last week.
At the Glasgow North West centre, donations – including three saddles of turkey from a local butcher – mean that 80 people will sit down for a free Christmas Day lunch together, with the meal booked out in advance for the first time.
Kyle McCormick, who runs Glasgow NW with his wife Jill, said they had been “shocked” by people’s generosity.
They have now had to turn down requests from people wanting to volunteer over Christmas as numbers have been so high.
Mr McCormick said: “We have had that many volunteer requests and people who want to donate that if we had the City Chambers on Christmas Day, we could fill it.
“There has been that much generosity, it has been a shock to us. If we asked for more we could get more.”
Turkey has been donated to the dinner at Glasgow NW by butcher Joe Clark, who is based on Dumbarton Road, Yoker, with cash donations coming from housing associations, churches and local companies.
There is only one rule at the Christmas Day lunch - the words “food bank” are banned.
Mr McCormick said: “These are our guests and it is about sitting down and enjoying Christmas. We are not a food bank on Christmas Day. There are smiles on faces. It’s about bringing people together.”
The McCormicks have four young children, one with Down’s syndrome, and the couple said working to share the day with others was just part of who they were.
Mrs McCormick said: “When I was young and out playing and had a sweetie, my mum would give me a clip round the ear if I didn’t share it out. It’s the same thing. You sit in here and see a wee boy’s face light up because there is a tube of Smarties in his bag. There is no way you can’t enjoy Christmas in here.”
The Trussell Trust, which runs around a third of food banks in Scotland, estimates that demand is approaching record levels this December. It is expected more than 16,000 referrals will have been made to its food banks by general practitioners, social workers and health visitors.
A 53 per cent increase in referrals was recorded in December 2014 compared with December 2013. Last December 14,159 people received food packages from the trust.
In Aberdeen, Pastor Barry Douglas, of King’s Community Church, believes the “overwhelming” generosity of people in the North-East was being driven by a change in economic circumstances being felt by many in the city.
He said: “There have been a lot of people impacted by the oil and gas crisis, everyone knows someone who has been affected.”
Pastor Douglas said he could see how the food bank had helped to make simple changes to people lives, sometimes with dramatic results.
He said: “A social worker phoned to refer a young man, who had been hiding in his house, really low and depressed, who just desperately needed some food.
“We gave him a parcel and we asked if he would like to come and do some volunteering.
“We asked what he was doing on Christmas Day and he said he had been asked to his family lunch but he was too embarrassed to go because he didn’t have money to buy his niece and nephew a present.
“So we gave him a present for them from the pile we have here.
“To see his reaction was just a beautiful thing. It’s just really, really touched him deeply. And he is now going to spend Christmas with his family.”