EXETER residents from all age groups and backgrounds are being forced to turn to charity just to eat.
While the city is often said to have fared reasonably well in the recession, the , which gives out free food to those with vouchers, has more than doubled in 12 months.
New figures show that between February last year and this month it fed 2,778 mouths – including 490 children.
That compares with 1,299, including 145 were children, during the previous 12 months.
Joy Dunne, Foodbank manager, said it was not just people on benefits who were using the service. We are also feeding people in work. It is right across the board – families, OAPs, single people, people in rented accommodation and people with mortgages," she said.
"They are all people in crisis. The rising costs of fuel, utilities and other bills means that money is just not stretching far enough."
To keep up with the growing demand, the Foodbank is looking for contributions.
In the past three years the service has helped feed more than 3,000 people.
All recipients are in genuine need and without the Foodbank would not have had food on their table. For people on a low income, a sudden crisis such as redundancy, illness, benefit delay or an unexpected bill can mean going hungry. Every day parents skip meals to feed their children, while others are forced to choose between heating and eating.
Ms Dunne said: "We are getting a tremendous amount of food donated and people are being very generous but we are giving out everything that we receive.
"We are helping more people each month. Two years ago we were helping to feed between 15 and 25 people a week, now it is between 40 and 60 people. It is shocking.
"And the majority of the people are just normal families who are going through a bad time."
To qualify for a Foodbank voucher people have to demonstrate they have no food and no money to buy it.
They have to be referred and there are about 50 different statutory and charitable organisations in Exeter which can help to do this.
Organisations such as Citizens' Advice Bureau, Women's Refuge, Children's Centres, Refugee Support, Christians Against Poverty, different housing agencies, the city council, various departments of the NHS and many more, all hold vouchers.
When a person is identified as being in crisis then the agency working with them issues a voucher that can be redeemed at the Foodbank's next distribution session.
Ms Dunne said: "We are a stop-gap while the agency working with the person in crisis comes up with more long-term help.
"The distribution sessions are manned entirely by volunteers. The people bringing a voucher receive a warm welcome, a cup of tea, a chat and three days of emergency food, together with signposting to other help, where appropriate.
"Every mouth we've fed represents a person in the city of Exeter who's reached a crisis and has nowhere else to turn for food."
Visit www.exeterfoodbank.org.uk for more details.