THE number of emergency food parcels handed out to people living on the poverty line has increased five-fold since this time last year.
East Durham Trust has seen the average number of food handouts sent as part of its Food Emergency East Durham (FEED) project rocket from 10 a week to 50.
The shocking rise is a stark measure of how desperate families and individuals have had to turn to the generosity of others to be able to feed themselves and their families during the bleak economic downturn – amid job cuts and tough welfare reforms.
East Durham Trust chief executive Malcolm Fallow said: “We have had people referred to us who haven’t eaten in days. There is little doubt that the current economic climate and cuts in public spending will lead to a significant increase in the number of individuals categorised as vulnerable.
“It is therefore feared that the need for parcels will increase, and foodbanks are stretched as more and more people struggle to pay their bills.”
Since setting up FEED in May 2010, the trust, based in Yoden Road, Peterlee, has helped more than 400 families, 600 individuals and in excess of 350 children.
Trust bosses say evidence has shown the seemingly simple delivery of a food parcel has prevented a problem from escalating into a crisis situation.
Easington MP Grahame Morris warned that further benefit cuts, due to make impact from April on both people in and out of work, will force even more people to rely on emergency food support.
He said: “The work of foodbanks – like the FEED project – provides a lifeline to people in dire need. However it is appalling that this level of support is needed in 21st Century Britain.”
The number of people relying on foodbanks nationally has rocketed from 2,800 in 2005/06 to more than 128,000 in 2011/12.
Trust bosses say it is now even more important than ever for people to donate food, with an extra four community venues added to the list of outlets where people can drop off donations, with more being added on a regular basis.
To find out more about FEED, where to donate, or how to become a volunteer distributing parcels, call East Durham Trust on (0191) 5693511.