THOUSANDS of residents have had help from a food bank since the coronavirus lockdown began – and charity bosses expect the need will continue to grow.

West Dunbartonshire Community Foodshare (WDCF) told councillors they have now secured part funding that will safeguard three employees until October 2022.

The charity was dealt a crushing blow last year when the Scottish Government turned them down for key funding – and have yet to provide anyone with an explanation why.

West Dunbartonshire Council opened a £50,000 contingency fund for WDCF earlier this year, before the pandemic, to cover the shortfall while they worked together to find another cash source.

Ultimately, it was a Bank of Scotland Foundation grant across the next five years that secured the paid staff into 2022.

There remains a gap of nearly £44,000 up to October 2022. The charity has only needed to claim £1,309 from the contingency fund as of May, so told councillors they would be “delighted” if the fund could remain in place in case they need it.

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Council bosses made £35,000 available during the lockdown to help food banks increase provision and expand the range of people they support.

Since the coronavirus crisis hit, WDCF reported a 48 per cent increase in need, with 3,777 people supported in the first 10 weeks.

The charity expects the need to grow as businesses try to reopen and workers face potential redundancies in the aftermath of the recession.

Clair Coyle, WDCF trustee, told a full council meeting last week, held over Zoom for the first time: “Since the beginning of Covid-19 in March it has become more apparent just how much the charity relies on having the three staff positions in place.

“When lockdown commenced, we had to close the three distribution centres and move to a home delivery service.

“To meet with government guidelines, our volunteer team of 104 was reduced to two. This resulted in the charity having only three staff and two volunteers working within our base across the week for the first 10 weeks.

“It was felt by the board of trustees that if we had not had the staff team in place the service would have had to close. This would have had a massive detrimental effect on those living in our community affected by poverty, and those who lost jobs and income abruptly due to Covid-19.”

Council bosses said the contingency fund was the right thing to do and they have worked hard with the charity, as well as fellow charity Food For Thought and new projects in Old Kilpatrick and Faifley to ensure residents in need get the necessary help.

Ms Coyle confirmed they asked the Scottish Government for feedback on why they were rejected for key grant money last November, but have had no reply.

Council leader Jonathan McColl told the meeting: “I share the disappointment this has not been resolved.

“WDCF, Food For Thought and all other groups have all worked extremely hard.

“I am extremely disappointed and a little bit angry that the Scottish Government have not come back to the group. I will raise this directly with ministers myself.”

Councillors approved the report on WDCF, which includes the council working with the charity on their long-term sustainability.