Northern Devon Foodbank has seen the number of people collecting emergency food parcels surge by a third in recent months

Duncan Withall says the rising use of foodbanks in North Devon is a worrying trend.Duncan Withall says the rising use of foodbanks in North Devon is a worrying trend.

Worrying new figures show use of foodbanks has increased by a third in northern Devon in the past six months.

From April 1 to September 30, 2,355 three-day emergency food parcels were provided to local people in crisis by Northern Devon Foodbank – of this 763 went to children.

The foodbank has urged the community to help it at the busiest time of the year by donating urgently needed food items in the run up to Christmas.

Foodbank chairman Duncan Withall said it was really worrying to see an increase in the need for emergency food in this area.

He said: “Every week people are referred to us after something unavoidable - like illness, a delayed benefit payment or an unexpected bill - means there’s no money for food.

“It’s only with local people’s help that we’re able to provide vital support when it matters most, and whilst we hope one day there’ll be no need for our work, until that day comes we’ll be working hard to help prevent people going hungry.”

The Foodbank is asking the community to help them prepare for their busiest time of year by donating urgently needed food items.

The foodbank is a member of The Trussell Trust network, which on Tuesday reported an increase in foodbank use across the UK.

Here, it is thought the local increase is due to people struggling with continued issues with benefit payments, low wages, insecure work and a reduction of service from some local charities offering crisis support.

In the months leading to Christmas Northern Devon Foodbank traditionally sees a spike in foodbank use, due to many factors including cold weather and high energy bills.

There are fears the roll out of Universal Credit in this area could make things worse, after feedback from other UK foodbankis about the problems people had been experiencing.

The foodbank said the six-plus week waiting period for a first payment can contribute to debt, mental health issues and rent arrears.

The running costs for the foodbank are around £35,000 a year, all of which is raised locally to enable it to continue its work.

The effects of these can last even after people receive their Universal Credit payments, as bills and debts pile up.

Next week the Gazette will be teaming up with Northern Devon Foodbank to launch its Christmas appeal, but in the meantime you can make donations of food at Tesco stores, or the Barnstaple Foodbank at St John’s Community Hall, or Pitt Lane in Bideford.

Any businesses, organisations and individuals interested in supporting the foodbank’s work can find out more at www.northerndevon.foodbank.org.uk