FRESH concerns about the county’s poverty problem have been sparked after record numbers flooded through foodbank doors in the run-up to Christmas.
Thousands of people have flocked to Flintshire’s foodbanks since they began operating 18 months ago – but demand has rocketed as people struggle to put food on the table over the festive season.
The service saw more than 125 people claim food in a single day – the largest number encountered on a single day since Flintshire facilities opened.
In Wrexham, nearly 600 children are this Christmas being supplied with food and presents from the foodbank.
The Wrexham Foodbank, run from the Salvation Army building on Garden Road in the town, is providing nearly 300 families with food parcels and presents for Christmas.
The figures have risen since last year, with 440 children and 219 families referred to the foodbank at Christmas 2012.
Major Ian McCredie, who helps run the foodbank from the Arc Community Centre, said numbers were on the rise but donations were also increasing.
“There have been about 60 volunteers working here for the last four weeks to get together food parcels and wrapping the presents,” he said. “This food and the toys, which are new, are all donated.
“This year we have had about 500 brand new toys donated.
“These go to children who never get anything new, so that feeling they must have when they open the packaging on a brand new toy must be so magical for them.”
But Mr McCredie was concerned about the rise in the past year in people needing help to put food on the table.
“I dispute this argument that foodbanks are only busy because they are there,” he told the Leader. “The problem is you don’t realise how bad the situation it is until you see it with your own eyes.
“There has been a significant increase in the people who need us.
“The increase is because of the economic situation and job situation.
“The agencies we work with are finding more and more people who are struggling to put food on the table and we even have parents going without food to feed their children.
“But the generosity of people has been very moving and humbling and we are very grateful of everything we have been given this year.
“The support has been unbelievable.”
Andy Leake, founder member of the Trussell Trust which launched the foodbank initiative, revealed further startling figures about the numbers of people making use of Flintshire’s seven outlets as well as the donations received.
“Last Friday was our busiest day ever,” said Mr Leake.
“We are seeing more and more people coming to us which is very sad but we are happy to help and we have lots of commitment from volunteers.”
Mr Leake estimates more than 400 people have visited Flintshire's foodbanks so far this month and that more than 6,000 people have now made use of them since their doors first opened in May, 2012.
Since opening initially in Mold, outlets have opened in Buckley, Connah’s Quay, Flint, Holywell, Queensferry and Saltney with 75 volunteers helping to ensure people living on or below the poverty line remain well nourished.
The operation is still expanding with a mobile service due to start in January, which will help those who struggle to get to existing centres because of transport difficulties.
“People in need sometimes don’t have money for transport, but we are still determined to get to them,” said Mr Leake.
He said Flintshire foodbanks are now boosted by the support of 130 partner agencies countywide and that a recent donation drive at three of the area’s Tesco stores saw people donate nearly four tonnes of food.
“It was a phenomenal response,” he said. “We have had so much goodwill from so many people and we are extremely grateful.”
Distribution manager Sandra Dixon told the Leader that people have also been donating special Christmas treats to ensure everyone can enjoy the special day.
“People have brought in teddy bears, selection boxes, mince pies and Christmas puddings which is quite moving,” she said.
“They have tried to make Christmas special and we are doing the same.
“It is so worthwhile.”
As well as the standard living food parcel, at Christmas the foodbank provides festive treats such as Christmas puddings and mince pies, to give those in need a something more special.
Next year Mr McCredie thinks the demand may again increase and they may have to look into the possibility of someone donating a warehouse for the parcels to be stored.
The help does not stop there and the Salvation Army is expecting about 120 to attend a Christmas dinner tomorrow. This event requires the work of 20 volunteers to be held.
People struggling with poverty issues can approach jobcentres, Flintshire Council, the Salvation Army and the Citizens Advice Bureau to see if they qualify for foodbank vouchers.
Mold Foodbank will be open today and on Friday , while the Queensferry outlet will be open on Monday.
For times and more information visit flintshire.foodbank.org.uk or call 01352 755385.