A food bank for struggling pet owners in the island has gained quite a name for itself across the community.
‘The Pet Food Pantry’ is an initiative started by Helen MacAffer and Marie Williams.
Helen said: ‘Marie and I started this up because the price of pet food had drastically increased.
‘We were having a chat one day and we noticed that a particular brand of pet food had gone up from £3.49 to £8.49 in less than six weeks.
‘That’s a phenomenal amount of money if you’re already on a tight budget.
‘We feed a lot of feral cats, Marie and me, so we buy a lot of pet food and we’ve watched the prices creep up and up.
‘When you’re buying a lot of pet food you don’t notice but once I started looking at the prices, I realised it is a lot of money.’
Pet Food Pantry has started to sign up organisations and shops to install collection bins in their premises so that members of the public can donate any pet food they don’t need to people who do need it, to ensure it doesn’t go to waste.
Helen said: ‘We were wondering how people with low incomes, pensioners or people in certain income brackets were coping with this quite dramatic rise in the price of pet food.’
The programme has been running for three weeks and the pantry has already started 15 drop-off points and helped 20 families with pet food donations.
Helen said: ‘The first week it was about getting the word out and then it’s taken off.
‘We have people contacting us daily to use our service and that’s the whole aim of it.
‘We currently service the whole island. I spent my day off on Saturday in Jurby, Maughold and the north of the island, collecting and dropping off donations.
‘We’ve also had a good response from other charities in the island, and we’re working with the Salvation Army and the Isle of Man Food Bank and they are referring people to us if they think they might use our service.’
Pets at Home in Douglas has also recently announced that there will be a collection point in-store for donations of pet food to the local food bank.
The reaction on social media has been strong, with the Pet Food Pantry Facebook page amassing 222 followers in just three weeks.
Helen said: ‘The reaction from the public didn’t surprise me, because the cost of living in the Isle of Man has gone up quite dramatically, people are dealing with high rents, the electricity, gas and fuel prices have all gone up along with the weekly food bill.
‘I’m not surprised, the more I speak to other organisations, the more I am realising how much of a problem it is and how many people are struggling.’
Helen and Marie have set their sights on expanding the reach of the pantry to more of those who need it the most.
Helen said: ‘We are hoping to reach more people that are not on social media, so we are hoping to get out and speak to people in the warm space hubs, other groups like the live-at-home schemes etc.’
The aim of the Pet Food Pantry is ‘keeping pets within families’, according to Helen, as she found that owners were having to give up pets due to the cost of caring for them.
Helen said: ‘For many people, their pet may be their only companion, and often we are seeing that they are being re-homed due to them sadly being unable to afford to feed them.
‘This is both upsetting and distressing for both the animal and owner. The pets don’t understand why they’re being re-homed, they just know they’re being taken away from their families.
‘We are offering a service to provide food for pets in these situations so that they may stay at home.’
She also said that it will be a ‘non-judgemental service’ that will help people ‘whatever the reason’.
If people wish to get in contact with the Pet Food Pantry to give a donation, use the service or register as a drop-off point, they can do so via its Facebook page.
The collections and drop-off times and locations are also shared via Facebook
Helen and Marie will be keeping their followers updated with the figures of their service.
Helen said: ‘People like to know where their donations go, how much food we collect and how many families we help.’