The number of villagers requiring emergency stocks from a Northamptonshire food bank has soared according to a co-ordinator who fears food poverty is no longer just an urban issue.
Barbara Parfitt, of the Trussell Trust’s Towcester branch, based at the Youth Coffee House in Bransons Lane, says there has been a marked increase in people living in affluent parts of the county who have turned to the service during the past year.
Across the East Midlands the trust has seen a 251 per cent rise in people using its services, which require recipients to first obtain a food ‘voucher’ following an assessment by one of a number of agencies.
Mrs Parfitt said: “Certainly over the last few months there have been more people using the food banks from the villages than from the town itself.
“Maybe it is just that awareness is getting through to the villages, but it’s also that times are hard for everybody.”
According to the trust’s statistics, more than 913,000 people received three days’ emergency food from its banks in 2013-14, compared with 347,000 in 2012-13.
Mrs Parfitt said many of the people heading to the Towcester branch were struggling because there had been a delay in their benefit claims payments or they were in the process of changing to the Universal Credit scheme.
But she added there had been a worrying amount of recipients previously holding good jobs who could not afford to pay their food bills.
“We’ve seen people in really influential places who have fallen on hard times,” she said. “The misconception is that it’s just people on benefits that need access to the food, but it can be anyone.”
Mrs Parfitt said that donations have also gone up to account for the demand.
But Brian Binley, MP for Northampton South, believes the Trussell Trust’s figures were skewed by those making dishonest representations to get hold of food vouchers.
He said: “I have no issue with charity. My issue is that this increase comes at a time when the economy is getting better, it isn’t a case of there being more and more poor people. It’s partly because more and more people are free-loading.
“From a man of my background, that ain’t how you live your life.”
For information or advice on the Trussell Trust’s Towcester food bank call07724 832043.