WEST FIFERS who have never needed help before are finding themselves in food poverty due to the cost-of-living-crisis.

That's what Sarah Keeble, founder of SHIELD, a self-funded group which offers support for those struggling, has been seeing more of over the past few months.

The mum-of-three started the organisation during lockdown and, due to increased demand, says that without help, she won't be able to keep up.

SHIELD delivers food parcels, click-and-collect, home-cooked meals, clothing and education bank items.

For the past two years, Sarah has also run a Christmas toy appeal, which she says will go ahead no matter what, but will be difficult to manage on her own.

Earlier this month, she held an open day in an attempt to attract new volunteers – though only two keen helpers turned up.

"A lot of people said they didn't see it or couldn't come down," she told the Press.

"I don't have the capacity to phone everyone, that's why I held the slot, I really need to see the levels of commitment in person.

"Two people did come and they were very good, one lady said COVID made her very isolated an nervous so it spoke volumes that she came."

Sarah, who has dyslexia, says that it is the admin side of the charity which takes up most of her time and that ideally she would like to take on someone to help with paperwork.

"I am overstretched as it is," she said.

"I get aggravated and short-tempered, I'm not good at it and I am already stressed with everything, it is so overwhelming.

"It's hard, I have created something which is invaluable, it's not something which I can throw away.

"I don't know how many times I have put appeals out, people are happy to donate but not to volunteer.

"I will still do the bulk of the work, I just need someone to help with the skills I don't have."

And this year she has seen added pressures, with an influx of people from all backgrounds asking for support.

"We have had to do more emergency food packages," she explained.

"Most of these people are still working and they are just so embarrassed but as soon as they meet me they realise I am normal and down to earth.

"I don't ask questions, if you need food, you need food.

"I'm so discrete, I don't offload referrals to anyone else, people don't need to repeat themselves and I remind them that they are doing us a favour and getting rid of food waste.

Kept going through donations of food and money, the initiative started in lockdown 2020 with the aim to help pensioners and any working families struggling with furlough life, shielding individuals with no help, anyone who was recently unemployed as well as pregnant women and key workers who needed food and other supplies.

At the end of last year, they opened a community cafe in Rosyth Co-op which also provides a base for the charity.

"We need to break the stigma," Sarah added.

"Traditional foodbanks are only open until 6pm, they are not suitable for those in work, it's not sustainable for some people.

"The process can be really difficult and people seem more comfortable coming to us.

"We are now getting people who maybe don't get the same overtime, or they've had a pay increase which put them over the Universal Credit bracket, or people who have taken in family members and are waiting on benefits.

"There are also newly-separated individuals who are now learning how to live with one income.

"Those who have suffered hardships tend to cope better, those who haven't and have never experienced trauma struggle more.

"I carry that emotional baggage, it infuriates me to see it."

The group now also receive help from Asda who collect donations and often buy from Best Before It's Gone, which sells food approaching or past its best before date, as well as damaged goods which will not be sold in regular supermarkets.

Sarah's next concern is running SHIELD's annual Christmas appeal, though she says this year she has "lost the energy" she once had and desperately needs support to carry it out.

"I'll have to do one, it'll go ahead but it takes a lot of planning.

"I know I'll pull it off but when people are saying how amazing I am I just can't help but think that's how everyone should be, I'm not amazing for it.

"I would love a Christmas team, there is a lot of joy in doing it but it's a big ask, a lot of people are struggling themselves.

"I don't want to put that guilt on people, I don't have the same energy or enthusiasm, I don't glorify or romanticise it, it's hard work.

"Every year has been a success, it would be a huge disappointment for this year not to be the same."

Anyone who can help SHIELD over the festive period should contact Sarah by email at sarahkeeble@hotmail.co.uk.