Food bank usage more than doubles across Lostock Hall, Bamber Bridge, Leyland, Clayton Brook and Penwortham
The number of South Ribble people struggling with food poverty has soared this winter, according to a food bank volunteer.
That's why Wendy Hodgson, coordinator of New Day Church's food bank, is appealing for more donations and drop-off points to help people in Lostock Hall, Bamber Bridge, Leyland, Clayton Brook and Penwortham.
The Lostock Hall church in Ward Street is struggling to keep up with referrals as they have more than doubled from six to eight a week to 16 to 17.
Wendy (42), of Clayton Brook, said: "We thought we were coming out of a busy period but we've just had referral after referral.
"Christmas and the school holidays are difficult because money is already so tight.
"I think people are generally struggling with the cost of living and seeing a delay in their benefits. Budgets are tight and as soon as an unexpected cost comes in, people can't manage.
"One lady came to us while a family member was in a coma and being given food took a bit of stress away.
"If you're on the brink and your car breaks down, for example, you can be tipped over the edge and face a toss up between food or the bus. That's what it's like for some families. They have to ask, 'do I put money on the electric meter? Or do I buy some food or cleaning products?' It's hard for them.
"As much as people don't want to rely on food banks, we can help them put food on the table so they can afford to take the bus to work."
Wendy added: "We hear comments that people are coming in for food and wasting their money on things they don't need. But we walk into a place and see they don't have anything. They're not joking when they say all they have is a bottle of soda to last a week. Sometimes they literally don't have anything other than that."
New Day is different to other food banks as it offers people four weeks' worth of food at a time, Wendy added.
"We give people a hand up rather than a hand out," she said.
"Seven days' worth of food would help get families through the week but by the end they'd be back in the same position.
"But four weeks' worth would offer them enough time to make a budgeting plan.
"Some people are waiting for their benefits to come in and that's not going to happen overnight so they find themselves in a vicious cycle."
Wendy's team put out 28 bags of food last week and estimates that a single bag costs around £10.
"That's an awful lot and it's hard to keep up," she said.
"If we can sustain this amount of food then we'll need more volunteers.
"The role is a challenge but I'm passionate about supporting people."
The church takes referrals from multiple agencies, including schools, Citizens' Advice, United Utilities, the South Ribble Integration Team, Places For People housing association and charities like Inside Out, which helps people with gardening, cleaning and decorating, and provides furniture, bedding and clothes.
New Day tailors each package to the recipient's need, including additional items like cleaning products.
Volunteers also act as a first port of call by talking to families and signposting them to other organisations for further support.
"Because we go out and spend a bit of time with them, we see what their need is," Wendy said.
"We helped one family get a cooker and other bits of furniture and helped someone moving house have their new flat decorated."
The church receives produce and baked items from two supermarkets while Gregson Lane Folk Club donate items every fortnight.
And Leyland couple Kimberley and Adam Badat have offered to use their business, AK Active in Watkin Lane, Lostock Hall, as a drop-off point.
Adam said: "Personally I feel like there is an immense amount of increasing pressure on families to really push the boat out during Christmas and it’s just not feasible for some people who don’t have the money. We really hope to take the load off a little, hoping that families have one less stress to think about."
Other new collection points are:
Lostock Hall - Hollywood Hair and Beauty salon, Linden Drive; and Lostock Hall Community Primary School.
Bamber Bridge - Beer Box; The Ballroom Salon, Station Road; and Milly & Bloom Photography, Stockdale Crescent.
Alternatively, donations can be made directly to the church on: Tuesdays, 9am to 1pm; Wednesdays, 9am to 2-30pm; or Sundays, 10am to 1pm.
Wendy added: "Without the support of people in this community giving food items, toiletries and money donations we wouldn't be able to do what we do. We are so grateful and our clients express their gratitude all the time.
"A food bank is a lifeline for many so thank you to every person who has given something - your donation is making a difference!"