Larne Foodbank has fed over 50 per cent more people this year than last, distributing more than 11 tonnes of food to those in need.
According to newly-released figures, the local Trussell Trust facility dispensed three days’ worth of food to a total of 856 people, 236 of whom were children, between April 2015 and March 2016.
This represents a 53 per cent increase compared with the previous year, and means that Larne Foodbank fulfilled 458 food vouchers.
The largest group of people seeking help were those on a low income, with 284 people or 33 per cent of those accessing the facility citing this as their reason for service use.
This was followed by 107 people experiencing benefit delays and 105 people with benefit changes, which together made up almost a quarter of people seeking help.
Foodbank co-ordinator Alan Turner believes that these figures illustrate how the government’s austerity programme has affected ordinary people.
“Of particular interest is that if the two groups, benefit changes and benefit delays, are combined there has been an increase of 154 per cent on last year,” he said.
“This demonstrates the impact of the austerity programme.
“Further local changes have yet to be implemented and this will surely lead to more citizens having to take advantage of support from Larne Foodbank.”
Other reasons cited for accessing the service were unemployment, homelessness, sickness, debt and domestic violence.
The foodbank enjoys the support of several local churches, schools, businesses and individuals.
Of the 11.23 tonnes of food donated, 8.27 tonnes came from churches, 0.9 tonnes from schools and 2.14 tonnes from other sources.
“We have been able to keep up with demand,” Alan continued.
“The people in this town are exceedingly generous. I’m constantly amazed at how good folk are in Larne.
“Olderfleet PS, Linn PS, Moyle PS, Roddensvale, Carnlough PS, Corran IPS, Larne Grammar School, Glynn Youth Club and Kilbride Presbyterian Church Bible class supported Larne Foodbank at harvest and Christmas with fantastic collections of food.
“One family donated food anonymously on a weekly basis and also contributed ten generous hampers for us to distribute at Christmas.
“A group of young ladies organised two indoor car boot sales which generated £180 and donations of food.”
Local company Dunnes has Stores has also raised £466.92 through a bag pack, and has initiated a vouchers for bread scheme.
Meanwhile, ASDA Larne hosts a monthly trolley for food donations and raised £50 through an information day and charity vote.
Kilwaughter Chemical Company Ltd also donated £1,000 to the group.
In order to get help from the foodbank, service users require vouchers from partner referrers such as MEA Citizens Advice, Salvation Army, Christians Against Poverty (CAP), the Simon Community, Antrim Coast Lions in Carnlough and other agencies.
In addition, the foodbank relies on a staff of volunteers to function.
“Larne Foodbank treasures its volunteers of which there are 70,” explained Alan.
“Some are involved in distribution in our two centres at Craighyhill Methodist Church and First Larne Presbyterian Church, some in weighing and sorting, some work in the store and warehouse, others help with one off events, some serve on committees.
“Without our wonderful group of volunteers Larne Foodbank could not operate.”
To donate money or to volunteer, ring Catherine on 028 2827 7530 or visit http://larne.foodbank.org.uk/.