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Friday, 25 April 2014

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Extreme poverty forces many to turn to foodbanks at Xmas

Hard-up families swapped turkey and all the trimmings for tinned food and pasta.

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Food bank organiser Rachael Rodway: ‘The week before Christmas was tremendously busy’

Extreme poverty forced many people in Carlisle to serve up handouts from local foodbanks for their Christmas lunch.

The shocking revelation comes as demand for food parcels in the city soared in the run-up to Christmas.

Carlisle Foodbank gave out about 100 parcels last week – triple the amount in the same week last year.

Organisers also say there was a greater need for the handouts among families with young children than ever before.

And overall demand for the service since April has also trebled compared to last year.

Rachael Rodway, who runs the project, explained: “The week before Christmas was tremendously busy, and on Monday we gave out about 20 parcels.

“We closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day but re-opened on Boxing Day and it was much quieter.

“I think this was because a lot of agencies are closed over Christmas which meant people weren’t being referred to us.”

She added that many people who were given the food parcels, which contain non-perishable items and staple foods such as bread, pasta and canned meat, would have had to eat them on Christmas Day as they couldn’t afford a traditional dinner.

The picture was equally as bleak in the west of the county where demand has doubled over the last year.

North Lakes Foodbank, which covers Allerdale and Copeland, has donated about 600 parcels so far this month.

Assistant project co-ordinator Linda McDonald said one man in his late 20s visited the Cockermouth distribution centre shortly before it closed on Christmas Eve.

“I could see he was going to have pasta and tinned fish for his Christmas dinner – and he wasn’t the only one by any stretch,” she said.

“It was very humbling.”

The Rev John Libby, of St James’ Church in Denton Holme, Carlisle, helps run a foodbank scheme with the Cornerstone cafe, which has also seen a huge increase in demand.

He believes there are several reasons for this, including recent changes to the benefit system.

He said: “There’s also a greater requirement from people to tide them over while changes to their benefits are implemented.”

Mrs Rodway said Carlisle Foodbank included chocolate selection boxes and Christmas puddings donated by the Trefoil Guild with its parcels to help struggling families.

Further donations are urgently required.

Visit carlislefoodbank.org.uk/shopping-list for a list of the items needed and information on drop-off points.

The Cornerstone cafe in Denton Street is holding free money advice sessions every Monday at 2pm from next month.

A work club will also be held every Thursday from 7pm – visit cornerstonecarlisle.org for details.

DHemming@cngroup.co.uk

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