In less than two years the number of low-income families and individuals resorting to help from the Foodbank Lifeline Foundation has trebled and now stands at around 300. Such rise which has been accelerated by the economic slowdown brough about by Covid-19. The situation on the ground bucks the official statistics according to which between 2013 and 2019 those at risk of poverty and social exclusion had declined by 5,000. 

‘In March 2019 the number of ‘clients’ who received aid in the form of groceries soared from around 110 to 295. When the pandemic first struck these numbers increased to around 600 families a week and have since decreased to about 300 families a week’, a spokesperson for the Foundation stated. 

Help from Foodbank Lifeline is in the form of a bag of essential food and drink items such as pasta, tea, coffee, canned food. The supplies are planned to last for about a week. The scheme lasts for six weeks, when the situation is reassessed and if need be, the help is extended further by up to 18 weeks in total. 

Apart from two distribution points in Valletta, Foodbank Lifeline reaches out to those in need through other points Vittoriosa, Sliema, Fgura and Qawra. 

“Ours is a short-term solution to give some respite until those concerned find the means to improve their financial situation. All clients at Foodbank Lifeline must have a referral from a social worker to receive our packs.” the spokeswoman pointed out. 

Apart from the layoffs triggered by the outbreak which have especially impacted workers in tourism and the performing arts, the main cause of poverty is lack of affordable housing. Moreover, the phenomenon of the so-called ‘working poor’ – the term used for those in employment who cannot still make ends meet – increased due to the sharp rise in residential property rental rates. 

“We also have quite a significant number who need support until the paperwork for their applications to be eligible for rent subsidy, social housing or social assistance are processed.” 

The sharp increase in numbers has also led to a situation whereby people in need are just turning up at Foodbank Lifeline without a referral. In such cases Foodbank Lifeline had to adapt to the situation by issuing a small pack to cater for such urgent cases. 

Interestingly, there is no particular sector of society who are particularly prone to poverty, that has yet been established. 

Meanwhile, concerns are being raised on cases of homelessness which until a few years ago were practically non-existent in Malta. 

“We have been noticing that some of the people who come to us are unable to make best use of the food we provide for the simple reason they are homeless. It is pointless giving pasta to these people as they have no kitchen. We try to accommodate by providing alternative types of foods when available.” 

Foodbank Lifeline is a registered NGO funded by private donations which are used to get food supplies at wholesale prices to distribute to those in need.  Those interested to support this foundation can either access the dedicated website on this link, contact them on Facebook or donate non-perishable food items at various drop off points around the islands.