THE unsustainable cost of Stonehaven’s community larder was disclosed last night when Stonehaven and District Community Council, SDCC, heard the venture consumed £1,000 each week – before the purchase of any food for its users.
On June 1, the Haven Community Food Larder announced it would be closing its doors at the end of the month. Rising operational costs were cited as the reason for the decision.
While being supported by 63 volunteers, the Larder employs staff – two of whom will be made redundant when it closes.
Can a way forward be found?
Last night, around 20 users and supporters of the Larder gathered for the SDCC meeting with the clear hope a replacement service could be found. Haven founder Starkeeper Morton was present and suggested Banchory’s Number One could provide a good model.
Chairman David Lawman said a group of people would be needed to pull together a volunteer service and said SDCC would do what it could to support such a move.
”But whatever comes in the future, in my mind, has got to be different, less complex. We can’t do 100% with a smaller amount of money,” he said.
Cost recipe for disaster
When The Haven made a funding application to the Kincardine and Mearns Area Committee last June, they reported a surplus of £64,163 along with savings of £ 92,697.
I put it to Ms Morton that with running costs being flagged at £1,000 per week, a sum of money ought to remain and asked if this money could be transferred to any new larder initiative – she replied any monies remaining were ring-fenced for their continuing charitable aims of food education.
Then to the clear shock of many present, Haven trustee and treasurer Kathleen Edwards added the £1,000 does not include the cost of food – only staff costs, rent, insurance and staff training..
Lack of warning criticised
Meanwhile Audrey Malcolm criticised the manner in which the closure decision and announcement were undertaken.
”The way it was done by the board was terrible,” she said, ”There was no contingency made for the people who need help.
”We should have been told earlier so there would have been more time to come up with a solution.”
Mrs Malcolm also noted the timing of the closure, which coincides with the school holidays when children do not have school meals to look forward to.
Impact felt elsewhere
Ian Hunter said: ”This is a whole community problem as it will put extra pressure on the other food banks.”
And it appears the Larder was assisting folks living outside Stonehaven.
Peter Flockhart of Newtonhill, Muchalls and Cammachmore Community Council said the Haven had supported some Newtonhill residents – and the Portlethen larder now feared they would be unable to address the deficit.
He said: ”I feel the closure has been a great shock to all the volunteers who had given their time and support in terms of time, money and mental support. The one thing you will get from the Haven helpers is a heart.”
Mr Flockhart said he hoped the helpers would have the heart – and the trust – to start again. He added he would take any initiative back to Newtonhill so the two communities could move forward together.