Foodbank launches drive through facility

Foodbank launches drive through facility

18 March 2020

DOWNPATRICK’S Fountain Foodbank has launched a new drive through facility in response to the coronavirus epidemic.

The cross-community facility — which has seen an upsurge in demand over recent days and handed out almost 40 food parcels last week — introduced the new service this week in the wake of Monday’s advice from Prime Minister Boris Johnston that people should avoid all “non essential” contact.

Volunteers from the foodbank, who are appealing for more donations to help them cope with the increase in demand in what are unprecedented times, are asking people with cars to drive into the car park at Downpatrick Presbyterian Church where the foodbank is based.

People are being asked to remain in their cars and once they have handed over their voucher, the food parcel will either be left beside their vehicle or placed in the boot. 

The volunteers have confirmed that they will also be changing the way they hand over parcels to people who arrive at the foodbank on foot or accept the generous donations people from across the district provide them with.

Foodbank co-ordinator Shirley Lennon said people continue to be generous and revealed that she was heartened this week to see collection points the charity has at a number of local stores filled with items.

She also revealed that while in the Asda’s Downpatrick store yesterday morning, she was approached by a woman who gave her an envelope with money it which her grandfather had donated.

Shirley explained the woman approached her after spotting that she was wearing her Fountain Foodbank hoodie.

Shirley has been at the helm of the foodbank since it opened and described the impact of the coronavirus issue on the community as “challenging”.

She also confirmed that the volunteers who provide the food parcel service are committed to continuing to help others across the community in need.

She described the climate the foodbank is currently operating in as “difficult” and revealed that it was extremely busy last Friday.

“On Tuesday of last week we gave out 10 food parcels which was busy but not unusual, but suddenly on Friday everyone seemed to panic and there were 27 parcels given out to help 60 people.

“To put that number of parcels in context, it was like the Friday before Christmas when we give out around 30 parcels. This is the only time that we would distribute that many.”

Shirley said she believes that this is as a direct response to what is happening across the community, explaining that measures had been put in place to restrict the time volunteers speak with people in a bid to protect their health.

“While I was not there last Friday when people were calling I believe that there was a sombre atmosphere. We gave out a lot of food and we reckon that we will be busy from here on,” she continued.

“It has been difficult to replace the food that was given out. We do not have that big a store, but we have managed and it is quite well stocked again just now, but it is difficult. Normally we have financial donations which lets me buy what we need, but there is no long life milk to be had anywhere. It has been hard for me to do that normal shopping for the foodbank. 

Shirley explained that while she collected an order from the Asda store in Downpatrick yesterday, she was unable to get the quantity of some items that she would have liked.

The foodbank co-ordinator said if shoppers would think about the charity when they are shopping it would help, explaining that people are being good, with messages coming in from people saying they will make donations. Shirley said that local churches have also been helping.

“There has been a good response from people which is very much appreciated, but the increase in demand is having an impact on our stock, coupled with the inability to get the food,” she said.

“People should not be panic buying, but it seems to be the way they react at times like this.”

She said that the Downpatrick foodbank and the Pantry foodbank in Newcastle are anticipating greater need and with people having no jobs and no money coming in, “they are going to be in more difficulty”.

Shirley added: “Everyone who used the foodbank over the past few months do not have the reserves to go and panic buy, that is why we are going to be busy.”

Donations can be left at the Fountain Foodbank on Tuesday or Friday mornings between 10am and noon. The contact numbers are 07444 015883 or email or visit

Newcastle and District Football League committee members are to donate food packs to the local food banks. They will be making themselves available on Saturdays to help with deliveries.