DEMAND for Malvern Hills Food Bank has grown substantially in the last year, figures have revealed.
As the Spring Lane based service approaches its second birthday, statistics have shown the food bank is helping about 30 per cent more people than it did 12 months ago.
Between October and December last year a total of 521 people were given food compared to 393 during the same period the year before.
The number of children in need has also shot up with 268 youngsters receiving handouts in those three months compared to 161 the previous year.
In the whole of 2014 a total of 18,173kg worth of food was given out to clients dwarfing the 9,362kg in 2013 although the food bank only started operating in February that year.
Since it opened the service has provided more than 65,000 meals.
The food bank’s quarterly figures have also revealed that disruption to benefits account for almost half of people referred, with ‘delays’ responsible for 29 per cent and ‘changes’ accountable for 16 per cent.
Having a low income and debt are the other main reasons which leave people in need of emergency supplies at 19 and 11 per cent respectively.
Trustees at the food bank are keen to change the general perception that many who use the service are somehow ‘abusing the system’ and stressed that more than 70 per cent of clients have only redeemed one voucher.
Three quarters of people are referred from partnership agencies including Evergreen and Sunshine Children’s Centres, Fortis Living, CRI Pathways to Recovery and Citizens Advice Bureau which accounts for 30 per cent of vouchers handed to people on its own.
The demand on the service means more food is sent out than is donated with an average of 1,400kg given out every month compared to the 1,200kg which is typically received.
As a result volunteers hold manned collections at supermarkets about every four months to top up supplies.
In December, Waitrose in Great Malvern agreed to have a permanent collection point to help meet demand.
Trustee Mike Hayes said ultimately the goal was to ‘wind down’ the service but he added at the moment there was no sign of the need in Malvern dwindling.
Chairman Chris Bray added: “The fact more than 70 per cent of clients only made one visit to the food bank indicates that the cause of their crisis was dealt with swiftly.
“It is often the combination of several unexpected things that may initiate their visit to a referral agency and so to us.
“Many clients have later expressed their appreciation of how we were there to help them until they were ‘back on track’.”