A Kinross charity has called for awareness training at a supermarket after service users were questioned when using food vouchers.
Broke Not Broken, which supports locals through its foodbank, counselling and other services, expressed disappointment after clients were quizzed at the Inveralmond, Perth Aldi store.
One service user, who wishes to remain anonymous, said they could “physically feel the embarrassment” when being questioned on their voucher use at the till in front of a queue of shoppers.
The charity says it distributes the vouchers to service users to help empower them, and that supermarket staff questioning clients is “disheartening”.
One client says the vouchers provide them and their family with the chance to choose what they eat.
But being questioned on how they obtained the vouchers, they said, made them feel shame and embarrassment.
They said: “Back in a time when I thought I would never need to use a foodbank, I thought that it must have felt so embarrassing to have to shop using vouchers.
“Little did I know that when I found myself in a position where I did need support, the relief from receiving these vouchers and being able to choose what my family ate was immeasurable.
“Every Tuesday feels like Christmas. Then you go into a shop and are questioned about how you got them and sheer panic sets in.
“Your kids are with you, there are people in the queue staring at you and you can physically feel the embarrassment, shame and sheer panic engulfing you.
“It was a horrible situation to be in and almost defeats the purpose of the hard work the food bank does to give those who need it most their dignity back.”
‘We were really disheartened’
Broke Not Broken says being questioned in this way created a “barrier” for people accessing support.
Chairwoman of Broke Not Broken Annie McCormack said: “Using vouchers is meant to give a little control and empowerment back to clients.
“Using a food bank can be challenging enough. When we heard that clients were being questioned over why they have vouchers and where they got them from, we were really disheartened.
Really disappointed @AldiUK employees questioning our clients about where they are getting Aldi vouchers from and why they have them. As if using a food bank was demoralising enough. @AldiUK maybe some awareness training for you staff would be good? #cashfirst #benice
— Broke Not Broken (@broke_not) September 15, 2021
“It takes courage to go to a food bank. It takes courage to ask for help. It takes courage to walk into a store with vouchers having never used them before.
“To be questioned on why in front of a queue of people, in front of your own children, and having to try and cover up the real reason is just another barrier to accessing this support.
We have suggested awareness training for all staff.”
Annie McCormack, Broke Not Broken
“We will be conducting some research with our clients about the attitude they receive when using vouchers and begin to address the various stores where there may be issues.
“If some clients have come forward, then there will be more who haven’t.”
She added: “We spend thousands of pounds with ALDI on these vouchers, as clients had requested the option to shop there to get value for money when doing their food shopping.
“We have suggested awareness training for all staff.”
What did Aldi say in response?
When we approached Aldi, the company said it is “sorry to hear about the experiences” of the service users.
A spokesperson said: “We are sorry to hear about the experiences of these customers and would like to assure anybody using food vouchers that they are always welcome at Aldi.
“We are committed to providing affordable food to everyone, through our unbeatable low prices, voucher schemes and the regular donations we make to hundreds of food banks across the UK.”