LEDBURY Foodbank has released figures which show a dramatic rise in the number of users, in the run up to Christmas, and also in the past six months.

The need has proved to be so great in Ledbury, not just in the Christmas period but since last summer, the market town of around 10,000 people "has fed more people than the food banks of some of its neighbouring and much bigger towns", according to local organisers.

Spokesman, Martin Ham said: "Figures show an increase of the number of those fed from 1902 to 2375, and more dramatically, the figures for November show an increase from 143 to 222, - a rise of 55%."

He added: “Our team of friendly volunteers does its very best to help the rising numbers of those with temporary problems. We have plenty of food to cater for the Christmas rush, but we’re not complacent. Rather like an over-indulged child, however much we have, we always want more, more, more: more money, more food, more help from volunteers, and above all many more people coming to us for help."

Ledbury Town Councillor, former mayor, Cllr Annette Crowe praised "the tremendous job" volunteers are doing at the food bank.

But she added: "The rise in the number so people using the food bank is either down to the message getting out there, and more people are going in, or it's down to an increase in those on the poverty line. If it's because more people are on the poverty line, it's awful that more people in Ledbury are having to rely on the food bank to feed themselves and their children.

"Thank goodness the food bank is there, and now the food bank is being supplied by the major supermarkets as well. But this is an awful situation to find ourselves in, because we are a first world country, not a third world country."

Cllr Crowe added: "People should not be embarrassed because they have to use the food bank. The Government should be embarrassed for putting them in that situation."

Mr Ham is concerned that some families eligible for help are still not coming in.

He said: “We know that there are many out there who should come to us, but don’t. In the holidays we are delighted to ‘top-up’ those families who get free schools meals, but many of them don’t come. We try to give the best possible service. Not all food banks hand out fresh produce such as fruit, vegetables, cheese, bacon and eggs, as we do, and we even give out advice about cooking”.

The Ledbury Food Bank, which is based at St Katherine's Hall, is very dependent on donations from local people and the support of local businesses.

Mt Ham said: "Our thanks and very best wishes this Christmas go to all those who have helped us by giving us very generous quantities of money and food. Also a special thank-you to both Tesco and the Co-op without whose help we would be struggling and, also to all the volunteers that have worked so hard to make all this possible. A Merry Christmas to all of you”.

Further details about the Food Bank on 07581 283092 and at FOOD@LEDBURYFOODBANK.ORG