A food bank set up in an affluent rural area of the North East is predicting a rise in demand for its services, even though much of its work is for people in work.
The West Northumberland Foodbank has distributed food to more than 150 households in Prudhoe, Hexham and Haltwhistle since it launched seven months ago and in December alone more than 300 bags of food was delivered.
Volunteers now believe that the number relying on the centre could be on rise during January, and said the main reasons for people turning to its service was low paid work and changes to people’s benefits.
Co-ordinator Sam Gilchrist said: “One of the main reasons why people come in is because they are in really low paid jobs and prices are going up. They are finding it hard to put food on the table and are making a choice between food and heating.
“Other people are turning to us because of reforms in their welfare. Sometimes people’s benefit is being cut or they are having to pay bedroom tax so their money is being spent on other things.”
Since launching last year, volunteers have handed out emergency food parcels to 183 adults and 161 children.
Throughout December 306 bags of food was distributed through churches, church halls and community groups.
Other people turning to the foodbank include victims of domestic violence and those people who have left home because of a break-down in a relationship.
Volunteers have also helped feed homeless people with no fixed abode and those who face paying an unexpected household bill.
Ms Gilchrist said: “People often link rural areas with affluent people but people do experience poverty in those areas too.
“Sometimes people can’t afford to get the bus into town for buy food from cheaper stores and have to used their local shop, which can be more expensive.
“Also there are less jobs in rural areas and sometimes people can struggle to find work.”
The West Northumberland Foodbank was set up in response to agencies reporting an increased demand from individuals and families struggling to put food on the table.
It is operated through a network of volunteers who collect tinned and dried food that has been donated by shoppers at supermarkets, including Waitrose, Tesco, Sainsburys and the Co-op.
Volunteers then sort, pack and distribute the bags to centres around west Northumberland.