A new diocesan and parish initiative which would discretely give poor families supermarket vouchers to combat the cost of living crisis is being trialed across Scotland.
The scheme was pioneered in the Archdiocese of Westminster’s Caritas programme in 2020 as a response to the pandemic.
The Caritas Emergency Food Voucher Scheme initially saw 62 parishes and schools receive £500 in vouchers to distribute to those in need.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols called the initiative ‘a crucial part of a response to this continuing crisis, protecting the dignity of those who use the vouchers in accessing food and essentials.’
Having been trialed elsewhere, including an expansion into a neighbouring diocese, the Church in Scotland is to replicate this work.
The Scottish Catholic understands that a small pilot project, supported by the Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh, was undertaken in East Lothian recently to help those suffering food poverty.
Money was raised locally so that headteachers in three primary schools were able to distribute food vouchers worth £25 each to be used in supermarkets in their area. It is hoped that the scheme can be continued in the near future.
Frances Gallagher of Justice & Peace Scotland and a parishioner at St Mungo’s, Townhead, brought the proposal to her parish’s Society of St Vincent de Paul group.
“Obviously, this had to be funded and they said they would,” she said.
“The St Vincent de Paul group went out to Farmfoods and bought 20 vouchers, £25 per voucher, so it was £500 [in total].
“We left four vouchers with the parish priest for anybody saying they need help.”
Before purchasing the vouchers, the group asked the permission of the parish priest, who acts as the point of contact for the school.
Gallagher said the parish’s connection to the school can be used to help families.
One teacher who attended St Mungo’s was given vouchers to distribute to families.
“They were going in on Monday to hand out to families they knew were in need. It’s all done discreetly.”
A problem identified by multiple charities during the cost-of-living crisis is the difficulty in finding who is in need, which is why the Catholic school system has been used so effectively.
Gallagher noted that although people may no longer come to the Church to ask for help, ‘they were still in need of help’.
She added that through the connection between the parish and the school the group will be able to reach others who are in need.
If you want to set up a scheme like this in your parish contact firstname.lastname@example.org