The food bank serving hungry people in Preston city centre is anticipating a dramatic increase in visits from families this Christmas.
As the festive season gets under way it is appealing for well wishers to donate food, toys and gifts.
Natalie Thomas, community centre assistant at Preston’s food bank at The Salvation Army, says the centre is expecting a 42 per cent hike in referrals.
She said: “We are expecting it to be extremely busy this year so we could be very grateful for donations to our Christmas mission with food, toys and gifts.
“We give toys out for children from newborns to young people who are 16-years-olds who are coming into us for referrals.
“Last year we helped 352 families with food hampers and handed out 1,052 bags of food. We also gave out 353 toys to zero to 10-year-olds and 147 gifts to 10 to 16-year-olds.
“Just from the last six months at the food bank we are expecting the numbers to be way higher than that. We are expecting a minimum of 500 referrals this Christmas.
“The last six months have seen a massive increase in food bank use - some of it is because of Universal Credit - our numbers do tie into that.
“A lot of the families that have been using it are adjusting. They have taken quite a hit with their benefits and they are just having to adjust because it takes so long for it to come through.
“A lot of people have borrowed and borrowed and borrowed from their friends and families so then they have first got to make their repayments.
“People are just having to make their money stretch further.”
Jeff Marsh, chief executive officer at homeless charity the Foxton Centre, said: “What we are seeing is that people are actually turning to food banks for support for basic living.
“I have had very distressed people turning up in here. I can think of one couple who turned up with their children who had nothing at all.
“They just sat in our office and the mum cried.
“They don’t have anything, they don’t have anywhere to turn to.
“We pointed them to the food bank.
“We do provide food for rough sleepers - they don’t have anything they can cook with though so a tin of food is no good. We take them pot noodles and provide breakfasts.”
In an effort to support Preston’s food bank Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has launched a call for donations.
Jean Harris, head of pastoral care services at the Trust, is leading the appeal.
She said: “We have been organising our food bank for seven years now and it is always hugely successful.
“We have had cars full of items to deliver over the years and we hope that this year will be no different.
“The Salvation Army is in urgent need of items for their food parcels and we hope that our colleagues and visitors will help to support this campaign.”
In a Tweet a spokesman at the hospitals in Chorley and Preston said: “As winter approaches, staff have launched their annual food bank campaign to help those in need. People within our communities are becoming increasingly reliant on food banks and need them just to get by and feed their family.”
Drop off points:
Salvation Army in Harrington Street, Preston
Ingol Social Club in Whitby Avenue, Ingol
Lime Bar and Lounge in Liverpool Road, Penwortham
Tranquillity Nails and Beauty in Liverpool Road, Longton
Livingwaters food bank in Bolton Street, Chorley
The collection organised by Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has now begun with the final cut-off date for collections being Monday, December 17. Donations can be left at the chapel at Royal Preston Hospital.