RECORD numbers of people are turning to a South Lakeland food bank where the amount of meals handed out has quadrupled in two years.
The King’s Food Bank in Kendal has provided more than 4,000 meals to struggling families since the start of 2014, compared with just over 5,000 in the whole of 2012.
“We’re seeing a huge increase in the number of people turning to us,” said manager Rachel Ellis, who revealed that children now made up a quarter of the organisation’s users.
“It’s shocking how many children we have to help. It shouldn’t be happening.
“We are grateful to the people who make it possible for us to offer the service, by donating, but this should not be the situation.”
In total King’s Food Bank has handed out 23,269 meals since it opened at the start of 2012 - of which 5,229 were in 2012 and 13,724 in 2013.
In the first quarter of this year the total is already up to 4,316. “I think it takes a lot for people to ask for help,” continued Ms Ellis.
“To have that many people in need of an emergency food package is really quite serious.”
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Based on the Castle Mills Business Park, the organis-ation receives referrals from social support agencies.
Three days worth of food – including tins, jars and other non-perishable items – is then delivered to the person or family in need, with help from a team of 34 volunteers.
It is believed rising living costs, changes to benefits, marital breakdowns and natural disasters are among the reasons local people are being forced to turn to the organisation.
“Most of the people who come in here say it’s benefits-related,” explained Alastair Sutherland, who co-ordinates referrals.
South Lakes MP Tim Farron described King’s Food Bank as ‘an incredible organisation’.
He said: “The people who support and run food banks really are unsung heroes and work extremely hard to make sure that no family in our area goes hungry.”
Local people are now being urged to donate items, which can be dropped off at either The Westmorland Gazette office or at Mr Farron’s office on Stricklandgate.
On May 17 the charity will host a fundraising dinner at the Castle Green Hotel.