Craigavon Area Foodbank received almost 1,100 referrals last year and provided over 2,900 three-day emergency supplies to local people, it has been revealed.
According to foodbank figures 1,123 of these supplies were given to children.
The foodbank is now over five years old and in 2017 received referrals from 46 agencies across the area. These agencies are well placed to identify those most in need of emergency food and other essential items.
Examples of agencies that referred to the Foodbank included St Vincent de Paul, Social Work Teams, Health Visitors, The Salvation Army, NIACRO, Mt Zion, Emmanuel, Clanrye Family Foundations and the 16+ Team.
A foobank spokesperson said: “We have supported people of all ages from across the wider Craigavon, Lurgan and Portadown areas, both urban and rural, including Drumgor, Killicomaine, Lough Road, Brownlow as well as rural areas such as Gilford, Waringstown, The Birches, Markethill and Richhill.
“On average, the vast majority of people will only use the Foodbank on a couple of occasions.”
There are many reasons as to why people need support. The main reason is low income followed by benefit changes and delays.
Other reasons include domestic violence, homelessness, sickness and debt.
The spokesperson added: “Poverty within the area is at 21% and with low wages, zero-hour contracts and a high proportion of income spent on food and heating, people can become vulnerable very quickly.
“We also know that many, when faced with a sudden change in circumstance eg job loss, sickness, changes in family circumstances, can leave them in a crisis and not knowing where to turn.
“As this area sees the roll out of Universal Credit, we are predicting this will also have an impact on the level of use our Foodbank sees. Our Foodbank aims to be a shelter in that storm.
“Without doubt, the Foodbank has received great support from so many, whether that be from donors, referral agencies and volunteers. So, this is a time to say thank you!
“We have over 50 volunteers who commit their time to the Foodbank regularly; whether that be helping in the warehouse, administration, in the distribution centres supporting people as well as many who help on the supermarket collection days.
“Last year 65 organisations donated to the Foodbank. This included local churches, businesses, schools and groups. Many people also donated through Tescos and other outlets. From this we distributed over 28,000kg of food and items such as toiletries.
“The Foodbank wonders what will lie in store for local people in 2018, especially as we see the roll out of Universal Credit in the area and with many working for low pay and on insecure contracts.
“We would ask you to think about supporting the Foodbank. This could be through donating during your weekly shop, encouraging your workplace to support us or helping us fundraise to covering running costs such as keeping a warehouse going. If you are thinking about donating food items, here are some things we are often most in need of: Tinned Meat, UHT Milk, Long Life Juice, Tinned Potatoes, Coffee.”
A total of 428 foodbanks operate within the Trussell Trust Network across the UK.
Craigavon Area Foodbank is one of over 20 Foodbanks supported by the Trussell Trust Network in Northern Ireland. It is one of the busiest and runs a warehouse and three distribution centres in Lurgan, Portadown and Craigavon.