Northern Devon Foodbank is preparing for Christmas and we’re asking readers to join our Give A Gift Appeal.

Now in its fifth year, the Gazette appeal has helped hundreds of struggling families enjoy a little relief during the darkest times at Christmas.

Each year we have been moved by the generosity of readers donating edible treats – from mince pies to selection boxes – to spread a little bit of joy at Christmas.

Anyone referred to the Foodbank in Barnstaple, Bideford, Ilfracombe or South Molton, will receive some Christmas extras alongside their food essentials.

Foodbank co-ordinator Duncan Withall said the amount of families using the service had increased greatly this year.

“When you’ve got a situation where you’re struggling to provide food for the family, and you want to get the kids something extra, it can be very stressful,” he said.

“Through the generosity of the people of North Devon, hopefully we can relieve a little of that stress at Christmas.”

Staff from the North Devon Gazette office with donations collected for the appeal. Picture: Sarah HowellsStaff from the North Devon Gazette office with donations collected for the appeal. Picture: Sarah Howells

And the more families the service helps, the more donations to the charity appear to fall, said Northern Devon Foodbank co-ordinator Duncan Withall.

“We are busier than ever before and we’re dealing with more and more families, especially where someone in the family is working but the wages are just so low,” said Mr Withall.

“One thing about this area, in particular Torridge which is the lowest paid area, is that most of the time it doesn’t take much to throw families into crisis.

“A lot of our donations come from families so one thing we have seen is that as we have more families referred to us, the amount of donations goes down.

“At one point in the summer we nearly ran out of food.”

Across Devon The Trussell Trust, the charity behind the Foodbank, said there had been a 13 per cent increase in food parcels being handed out on 2017.

Pick up some items from this shopping list to donate to our Give A Gift appeal.Pick up some items from this shopping list to donate to our Give A Gift appeal.

National research by the charity showed delays with Universal Credit were the main reason for food bank referrals.

However, Mr Withall said Universal Credit had not hit North Devon as hard as the rest of the country – yet.

“We are preparing for it to get busier though,” he said.

To help bring a little Christmas cheer to families struggling over Christmas, the Gazette is launching its fifth Give A Gift appeal with the charity.

Last December some 425 families received an extra treat with their food parcel, thanks to the generosity of our readers.

So here is how you can help...

Christmas shopping list

• Mince pies

• Tinned ham

• Christmas pudding and cake

• Biscuits and chocolates

• Chocolate selection boxes

• Snacks and nibbles

• Christmas crackers

• Tea and fruit juice

• Tinned fruit, soup or tomatoes

• Dried milk or UHT milk

*Please no alcohol.

Where to donate

Any items from the list above can be donated to the Gazette offices, Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm.

Alteratively take them directly to the Foodbank: Barnstaple, at St John’s Community Centre, and Bideford, in Pitt Lane, are open Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 10.30am-1.30pm; Ilfracombe, at Salvation Army Community Hall, is open Tuesday and Thursday, 10.30am-1.30pm.

All Christmas food donations must be received by Friday, December 14.