Meath food bank founder left in tears after abusive calls

The founder of a food bank says she curled up on her couch and cried for hours after being verbally abused from "entitled" people demanding supplies
Meath food bank founder left in tears after abusive calls

Louise Walsh

The founder of a food bank says she curled up on her couch and cried for hours after being verbally abused from "entitled" people demanding supplies.

Ashling Lowe of the Meath Food Bank said she suffered health issues after getting a constant barrage of abuse from callers seeking support.

The service has helped almost 4,000 people over the last six years, including frontline workers and former soldiers who can't make their pensions stretch to cover bills and food. However, more and more people are now calling seeking help.

We're trying to help as many people as we can. We are here voluntarily. We are not here to be abused.

"We have had so many new service users because of the rising costs of living recently, which has also affected us in terms of needing more donations to afford the same amount of food," she said

"We now need €1,800 to keep the Navan-based food bank shelves stocked - prices are increasing and people can no longer afford to make big donations.

"Some days we have nothing left and can't do deliveries that day as we need to go shopping to restock and look after people the following day.

"But you just can't explain that to some of the new service users. It goes in one ear and out, and they chuck abuse at you down the phone. The service users that need our service for years are very understanding and send lovely messages

"But I get a barrage of abuse from some of the new service users because I don't have what they want. I get told they'll never ring again, that I can look after everyone else but them. I've been told to F you and other obscenities. I've heard it all

"I can't tolerate that for me or my volunteers. Many of my volunteers are service users who can't donate food or money, but they can donate their time which is massive to me.

"We're trying to help as many people as we can. We are here voluntarily. We are not here to be abused."

Ms Lowe said she understands people are under pressure, "but we are under pressure too. The amount of people needing help is higher than ever before, and we need more money than ever before to meet the rising prices".

"I suffered shingles for six weeks due to stress, and I had to take a day off from the Food Bank because of the abuse I was getting over the phone. I came home, curled up on the couch and cried for two hours because I had to

"Many of the new service users have a sense of entitlement which can be a little overwhelming. So many people ring up embarrassed to ask for help, and they apologise for ringing because they genuinely are for some reason ashamed to be asking for help and are grateful for anything they can get.

She said there are a lot of callers with a "sense of entitlement" who "give dog's abuse if they can't get what they want".

"People have to have a bit of manners and realise the effect abuse can have on others. I'm open and honest that I suffer from mental health issues. When someone attacks someone down the phone, they need to be mindful that that person could be feeling a little down that day and could be suffering in silence.

"Have a bit of respect. We are all human beings and most of us are just trying to get through each day by doing the best we can for others."

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