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Dublin: 7 °C Monday 18 November, 2019
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Soup kitchen founder says 2014 "worst year yet" for struggling families

The ‘Twist’ mobile food service is now bringing food aid directly to hard-hit estates in the Midlands and West.

Twist volunteer Michael Qualter
Twist volunteer Michael Qualter
Image: Oliver Williams

THE FOUNDER OF a network of soup kitchens and charity shops in the Midlands and West is now travelling door-to-door to provide food aid to those in need in housing estates around Westmeath, Galway and Mayo.

Oliver Williams, a helicopter pilot by trade, who set up his first ‘Twist Soup Kitchen’ in Galway two years ago, says 2014 has been “the worst year yet” in terms of numbers seeking out the service for basic food needs.

“Things have been bad – particularly in the past month with kids going back to school.

I feel it’s going to run on until Christmas. I don’t see any break in the amount of poverty people are experiencing.

The service is advertised as a “€2 Mobile Food Shop” in a bid to spare the blushes of people who may be ashamed to be seen using it.

The mobile service is in operation in Athlone, Galway and around Ballina in Co Mayo. Everything from juice and vegetables to meat and canned goods is delivered using refrigerated trucks.

Several of his soup kitchens ran into problems over planning, and have closed down in the last few years. However, one is still in operation — serving around 70 meals a day — at a former restaurant premises in Sligo. Income from second-hand shops in Athlone, Loughrea, Sligo and Ballina helps fund the food aid side of the operation.

The ‘Twist’ shop in Loughrea.

Says Williams:

“To be honest with you soup kitchens probably are not the way forward really.

I find the mobile service is more direct and you can target the individuals that need it most [...] the single mothers in the housing estates.

In spite of all the talk of an upturn in the economy — thousands of households are still feeling the effects of the downturn, according to the Galway man.

The numbers using our service are increasing on a weekly basis… We’re not getting the real picture.

“There’s some people I find are too honest… They’re trying to make payments — and it’s just unrealistic and unsustainable. They’re putting money into stupid mortgages and leaving their kids hungry. And there are kids going to school hungry, believe me.” 

His volunteers are still dealing with demand from “people that would have been working, would have had jobs or would have been in business” Williams says.

They’re just not able to cut it.

Oliver Williams.

His organisation — which, it should be pointed-out, is not a registered charity (Williams describes it as a not-for-profit) — decided to begin its Christmas appeal this week, in light of anticipated demand…

I can see a massive massive need opening up.

“Normally we wouldn’t be putting the word out until the end of November.”

Williams is appealing to individuals or companies who might be able to help out with food or other donations to get in contact via his website or by calling him at 087 777 3845.

All Photos – Oliver Williams.

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