Staggering numbers of emergency food parcels have been prepared for needy local residents over the Christmas period.
Volunteers at the North Northumberland Food Bank, anticipating a surge in demand, have packed 76 crates of food, thanks in part to a recent collection at the Berwick branch of Tesco.
Jane Pannell, food bank coordinator, said: “It sounds a lot, but we’re handing out a little more than usual to account for any difficulties over Christmas.
“We are really nervous about how people will cope over the extended holiday period.
“We are anticipating there will be a crisis so we’re giving out seven days worth of food rather than the normal three days’ worth.”
However, she fears the situation is likely to deteriorate when the winter weather worsens and fuel bills come in.
“That’s a huge concern for us,” said Mrs Pannell. “The issue is on the radar over the Christmas period but people forget that’s it’s likely to be a big problem in January and February when those bills arrive.”
Once the festive period is over, nearly 800 food bags will have been handed out by the North Northumberland Food Bank since September 2012.
Berwick CAB, an active member of the food bank, has given out food parcels on 77 occasions in that time. In total 149 food parcels have been given to 102 adults and a minimum of 20 children. They have noted a steady increase in demand.
There are various reasons why people find themselves short of money but by far the most common is because they are waiting for benefit entitlement to be processed.
Jen Hall, CAB manager, said: “Food parcels are being received by CAB clients who have no money and nothing in their cupboards. They are young and old, in work and unemployed, families, pregnant and single people. Behind every food parcel there is a sad story.
“People on low incomes don’t have the resources to fall back on, savings in the bank or cupboards of food, and it takes very little to cause an emergency situation.
“Thank heavens for the generous people and companies in the area who have donated the food and the unsung volunteers who give up their time to sort and pack the bags.”
The food bank is short of items such as jam, long life milk, toothpaste and pet food.
New collection points and delivery agencies are developing all the time. There’s now a box at the Cheviot Centre in Wooler and one in the Alnwick CAB office.