SHOCKING new figures have lifted the lid on the scale of Wigan’s escalating hunger crisis.
The borough’s food bank, run by The Brick homeless shelter, has handed out nearly twice as many emergency food parcels in 2013 as in the previous five years combined.
This year alone, 4,193 emergency hampers have been handed out and, since April 1, more than 3,000 have been dished out to adults and more than 880 to local children.
Of the children helped in the last nine months, 277 were aged under five and 299 aged between five and 11 years old.
In 2012 the total number of food parcels dished out was 941 and in the previous year the figure was just 580.
Trish Green, who manages The Brick, reckons the scrapping of Government crisis loans combined with benefits changes and the bedroom tax is responsible for the alarming increase.
She said: “Ever since the crisis loans were stopped the demand has exploded. For a lot of people there’s no other place they can turn.
“When we set the foodbank up we never envisaged it would end up like this. I wish it wasn’t needed at all - but it’s clearly crucial. It’s a terrible state of affairs.
“We’re anticipating an increase over the Christmas period too because the children will be on holiday and budgets will be stretched even further. The pressure on people’s purses has never been greater.”
The Brick’s foodbank aims to offer three-day hampers of food for people in crisis, including the homeless, elderly and hidden working poor.
They also strive to establish the root cause of each individual crisis and aim to help resolve each issue.
The foodbank relies on donations from the public via churches and supermarket collections as well as receiving food from supportive manufacturers.
Food collection points include The Brick’s Arcade Street headquarters and Wigan Library.
Each food parcel is for one person and contains nine meals made up of three breakfasts, three main meals and three snack meals plus toiletries, tea or coffee and snack extras when available.
There is no limit to the number of parcels a person can receive as long as they get a referral for each one and are working to resolve their issues.
And, for the first time, the foodbank is this year offering a small number of special Christmas hampers for families set to go hungry over the festive season.
Trish Green added: “We’ve asked the local Sure Start centres for nominations and it’s something we will aim to build on in future years.
“There will be a whole host of things in each hamper inculding selection boxes, Christmas pudding and mince pies as well as meat, veg and potatoes.
“We know there are lots of mums and dads out there who are skipping meals so their children can eat.”