Sarah Phillips opened the meeting and wished us all a happy new year.

She then talked about our Christmas festivities.

Our Christmas party went very well and, as Mrs Phillips had previously been organising a party for Brownies, she applied her expertise to our party and we played pass the parcel and other games.

Unfortunately, we had no music so we sang Jingle Bells while passing the parcel until Mrs Phillips called for us to stop and unwrap the parcel.

We were all thoroughly conversant with the Jingle Bells lyric by the end.

We then went through forthcoming events including Arbory’s birthday lunch in February which will be held at the Abbey restaurant in Ballasalla in February.

Finally, one of our members, Mrs Julia Gilbert, who had used a WI bursary to learn how to do woodwork, showed us the fruit bowl she had made. We were all very impressed with it.

Mrs Phillips then introduced our speaker, Neil Mellon, from the Isle of Man Foodbank.

Mr Mellon said that he was there to tell us all we wanted to know about the subject but were afraid to ask. He proceeded to explain how the food bank had begun five years ago. In the first year they had given out 150 food parcels but this number has now been greatly exceeded.

People who needed help would be interviewed and their history assessed. If they are accepted, the foodbank will make up an appropriate parcel for them.

Family problems frequently arise when, for example, the children have a long school holiday and three meals a day have to be catered for instead of two and the normal family routine is disrupted.

Sometimes a change from weekly to monthly pay day causes problems. Immigrants have particular problems because of the time between arrival and being eligible for benefits and housing.

Pride often prevents people from seeking but help sometimes there is a simple choice between food and heat.

Also, since home economics is no longer part of the school curriculum, many young mothers do not know how to cook or to budget.

An accumulation of blows can hit families so having somewhere to ask for help is important.

Tesco and Marks and Spencer donate left-over food and the Salvation Army is hugely effective. They know the ropes in dealing with the benefits system and have learned the bureaucratic language involved.

We all learned a lot and, as Mrs. Phillips said in her vote of thanks, Mr Mellon’s talk was very informative about something which many of us know little about.

There was no competition this month as we had all brought contributions for the Food Bank.

Our next meeting will be held at Arbory Methodist Chapel on February 14 at 7.15pm.

Sheena Gilbert