Hunger remains a key concern for low income families in Carrickfergus after a stark rise in numbers using a local foodbank was revealed.
The Carrickfergus Trussell Trust foodbank provided 165 three-day emergency food supplies to people in crisis between April and September 2015 - over four times the number distributed during the same period in 2014 (35).
Located at Jordan Victory Church on Woodburn Road, the service relies on donations of non-perishable items from members of the public.
The items are then sorted into packs by volunteers at the warehouse.
The foodbank has seen strong support from the community with over 40 people volunteering and 3.47 tonnes of food donated in the period April to September 2015.
The trust operates a system whereby families or individuals in crisis can receive a voucher from frontline care professionals, such as doctors and social workers.
Low income was one of the main reasons the foodbank service was used in Carrickfergus, according to the Trussell Trust.
Across Northern Ireland, benefit delays also account for a large number of referrals (18 percent).
Expressing concern over the stark rise in numbers using foodbanks, East Antrim MLA Stewart Dickson said: “More and more in one of the wealthiest countries in the world we are seeing hunger amongst low income families. This is an unbearable and complex problem, but we must set about trying to resolve it.
“The Tories continue to hammer the poor, ignoring the low pay economy and demonising those forced to use foodbanks.”
Nationally, between April and September 2015, Trussell Trust foodbanks gave over 506,000 three-day food supplies to people in crisis, compared to 493,000 during the same period in 2014.
Trussell Trust UK foodbank director Adrian Curtis said: “Latest foodbank figures are still at worryingly high levels. We look forward to the day that we can announce a decrease in numbers needing foodbanks, and we welcome the fact that latest national figures show a less dramatic rise.
“Whilst we hope that this is a sign that economic recovery is giving more people access to secure work, several foodbanks are reporting that some agencies and charities who would normally refer people in crisis to foodbanks have been unable to do so because funding reductions have caused their services to be squeezed or closed.
“We’re seeing that hunger remains a major issue for low income families and individuals. When the proposed changes to tax credits are implemented, we are concerned that more working families will not be able to make ends meet, and that we could see a substantial rise in foodbank use as a result.
“We need to learn more from the realities of life for people struggling on low incomes and make sure that no incomes are too low to live on.”
Meanwhile, winter is likely to see a rise in numbers of people needing foodbanks, as people on low incomes face choices between eating and heating. I
In December 2014, referrals to Trussell Trust foodbanks nationally were 53 percent higher than the average across other months, with over 130,000 three day food supplies being given to people in crisis in December alone.