THOUSANDS of people in the Portsmouth area are relying on food banks to survive.
A report from the Trussell Trust food bank network shows UK-wide food bank figures for 2015-16 remained at record levels.
It found that 6,012 people were helped by the Portsmouth food bank last year, with it giving out 2,411 three-day emergency food supplies to people in crisis during 2015/16, compared with 2,566 in 2014/15.
The statistics show that need is still not decreasing from record levels reached in 2010 and, although the numbers appear to have plateaued, food bank managers say the food is reaching more people as parcels are going to larger families.
Martin Mant, the manager of the food bank in King’s Church, Somers Road, Portsmouth said: ‘Although we have seen a slight decrease, there has been an increase in the number of people we have given food out to.
‘This means that more family units are now looking to us to help them in crisis.
‘It’s all too easy when you look at figures to forget the people behind the statistics.
‘That’s why the food bank is so vital. We’re grateful for the ongoing support of the community, and hope that one day there will be no need for us in Portsmouth.
‘But until that day comes, we will continue to offer the best possible service to help local people facing a crisis.’
From the parcels given out in Portsmouth, 2,575 children were fed. Mr Mant said the top three reasons for people turning to the food bank were benefit delays, benefit changes and low incomes.
Philip Rutt, from Fareham and Gosport Basics Bank, said that figures at the food bank, which operates from two premises, had levelled off but he stressed the need for people to continue to donate.
He said that the two food banks – one in Fareham and one in Gosport – had given out 2,076 food parcels in 2015/16, compared with 2,187 the year before and 2,319 in 2014.
Mr Rutt said: ‘The need is still there and we still need people to give us donations to be able to do what we do and that is to help people who are desperately in need.’
Basics Bank began in 2003, and during its first year it gave out just 200 food parcels.
By 2010 it gave out 806, meaning that the need has tripled in just six years.
Mr Rutt said that this was mainly down to changes in benefits and benefit sanctions, as well as homelessness and unemployment.
But he added: ‘It’s plateaued which is a good thing. That may or may not be down to more people in work, but we are still seeing lots of people affected by benefit sanctions and there are nasty things on the horizon with changes to Universal Credit. It will just take one small change and the figures could rocket.’
The Trussell Trust said there was a two per cent increase nationally at its 424 food banks in the 2015/16 financial year.