The number of families struggling to put food on the table this winter has seen demand for handouts ‘blow up’ on the Fylde coast.
But charitable organisations have hailed the community spirit that saw three quarters of a ton of food donated in a single day last months.
While Fylde Foodbank – which has bases in St Annes, Kirkham and Warton – saw demand double in the week before Christmas, the surge in calls for help was matched by an upturn in donations.
And Blackpool soup kitchen Amazing Graze has continued to serve around 200 people a week this winter.
Linda McEvilly, 72, of Blackpool Care and Share, has seen a steady rise in gift hampers given out over the last couple of years.
She said: “It has absolutely blown up. The whole of Care and Share has become enormous.
“Before it was only for clothes, and now we’re getting at least 14 people or families a week, and that’s for duvets, toiletries, furniture and cutlery.
“It’s hard to meet the needs of people and it’s because I have such wonderful people that donate to me that I keep going.”
And Christine Miller, founding member and trustee of Fylde Foodbank, said: “In the last week before Christmas, each depot saw at least double the number of clients they normally see.
“But what we saw was an upturn in the response from the community .
“We didn’t actually have to ask for anything – everybody was bringing stuff to us.
“Three quarters of a ton on the Thursday before Christmas was donated to us.
“That meant we could stock people up. We give a three-day food supply in theory but we were able to put extras in.
“Our volunteers all went home feeling they had made a difference in somebody’s life.
“There is a real generosity in the Fylde community for which we are so grateful.”
The steady rise in reliance on foodbanks in recent years has been blamed on years of austerity, with benefits sanctions pushing people into poverty.
Linda added: “It’s because of the changing rules to the benefit system and the lack of funding for the council.
“Council houses are absolutely gutted. Some of them don’t even have curtain rails. These people are going into completely empty flats and houses.”
The Fylde Foodbank service was established by the Trussell Trust in September 2014, starting off with just a handful of volunteers but now with around 50 – and a waiting list. It’s one of more than 400 around the country, operated by more than 40,000 volunteers.
Christine said: “People who come to foodbanks, not just here but across the country, do not want to be here and the moment they can get back on their feet they stop coming.
“Our clients are referred to us from a variety of agencies helping them with their particular issue, such as Citizens Advice, social services, children’s centres, schools, doctors, the Town Hall, social housing providers and the like.
“We always have a flurry of people arriving late afternoon, just before closing time as it’s almost like they have tried to put it off all day.
“No matter what, we make people feel welcome and treat them with respect.
“We have a responsibility to give to those in the greatest need but they need to help themselves.
“The foodbanks are not a long-term sustainable solution and it is important that people don’t become reliant on us.”