TODAY The Coleraine Times can reveal the shocking scale of hunger among families and young people in Coleraine.
Causeway Foodbank says it recently helped to feed a family of five including a NINE-WEEK-OLD baby.
The family - a mother and her other children, aged six, four and two - were given basic provisions for three meals a day for three days.
Causeway Foodbank was launched locally at the end of March and within a month had provided emergency food for 68 people in the Causeway area - 24 of these were children under 16.
The foodbank was developed in response to the increase in food poverty as identified through the Sunday Food Giveaway project that distributed 13,500 food packs within the Causeway area from July 2009 until March 2013.
It works as a collaborative project combining a number of local churches and Christian organisations to provide a spread of Foodbank Distribution Centres on a variety of days, times and locations throughout the Coleraine Borough.
Figures released by the Trussell Trust show that its foodbanks have seen the biggest rise in numbers given emergency food since the charity began in 2000.
Almost 350,000 people have received at least three days emergency food from the foodbanks during the past year, nearly
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100,000 more than anticipated and close to triple the number helped in 2011-12.
The Trussell Trust has seen a 76% increase in the number of foodbanks launched since April last year but has seen a 170% increase in numbers of people given emergency food.
Causeway Foodbank Manager Melanie Gibson says: “These national figures are deeply shocking and reflect what we are seeing locally in regard to food poverty within the Causeway area.
“What has shocked me the most is that 35% of those who the Causeway Foodbank have helped are under 16 years old. It’s heart-breaking to see children go hungry, but amazing to witness a community rally together to tackle food poverty through the Causeway Foodbank.”
Melanie said that some families faced the stark choice of either feeding their children or heating their home.
“National statistics show that one in five mothers will skip meals so that they can feed their families.”
Locally, the public, churches and community organisations donate non-perishable items to Causeway Foodbank so that it can be packaged and distributed to those most in need.
Frontline care professionals such as doctors, social workers, schools liaison officers and Jobcentre Plus refer their ‘clients’ to the local Foodbank for help.
Individuals and families are given a voucher to exchange for nutritionally balanced food, given out by local volunteers.
Trussell Trust Executive Chairman Chris Mould says: “The sheer volume of people who are turning to foodbanks because they can’t afford food is a wake-up call to the nation that we cannot ignore the hunger on our doorstep.”
If you would like more information about Causeway foodbank or to find out how you could donate food, time or funds contact melanie on 028 70326161(ext4), firstname.lastname@example.org.