CHARITY bosses have seen an "unprecedented rise" in North East food banks as families struggle to afford their weekly shop.
In Newcastle alone 15 food banks and services have been set up to aid families where job losses or benefit cuts have left them on the breadline.
Across the city, hard-hit households are increasingly turning to charity groups which hand out food, clothing and other goods to those who cannot get by.
Storehouse, a leading food bank in Newcastle, is one of many city groups warning that they are increasingly seeing families who would previously not have needed help.
As unemployment in the North East remains stubbornly high, working families forced on to dole queues are joining those already on benefits in calling on charities for help meeting food costs.
Lisa Crosby, of Storehouse, said she is well aware of the day-to-day struggles of families who never expected to be in this situation.
She told The Journal: “We want to raise awareness of the type of people now coming to us, that may be perceived to be in ‘normal’ situations, may struggle to pay their bills.
“We have been speaking to Citizens Advice and they say that benefits changing to monthly payments means that people are not used to budgeting.
“Our key aim is that people shouldn’t have to struggle and so we try to address people before they hit crisis.”
She added that over the last year people who would previously never have used these types of services since the cuts are finding themselves increasingly reliant on food banks and organisations such as the Trussell Trust.
Last night the Bishop of Jarrow, the Rt Rev Mark Bryant, said he was at least heartened by the number of people and organisations contributing to and volunteering for food banks across the diocese. But he added: “The other side to this is that it seems strange to many of us that in a country like ours these food banks should be necessary.
“I hope that in the coming months those in Government will listen to the reasons why people are needing to access food banks to see what can be done to make these food banks less and less necessary.”
Sally Young, chief executive at Newcastle City Voluntary Service, says that in the last two years there has been a huge increase of people seeking help from food banks in Newcastle.
She said: “This study highlights real poverty in parts of Newcastle as shown by the need for food banks.
“It has also shown the increase in demand for food kitchens. Clearly getting enough food is a problem for some people and families in Newcastle today.
Newcastle Central MP Chi Onwurah said she was seeing more and more people “who are in real hardship”.
She added: “The fact is that an expected event such as illness, or a very high energy bill, or reduction in hours can suddenly throw ordinary people into real poverty and the availability of public support is much reduced.
“I welcome the food banks which are being set up and applaud the convictions of those who want to ensure no one goes hungry in the North East but, in the 21st century, in one of the richest nations in the world, we should not need food banks and the fact that we do says all we need to know about the Government’s economic policy.”
For more information or to volunteer call Storehouse on 07834 388444 or visit www.cvsnewcastle.org.uk