A STAGGERING 16,455 adults and children in Gwent have been forced to turn to one charity’s food banks in the last year, more than triple the amount from the year previous.

The figures released by the Trussell Trust yesterday, show the thousands who received food support from Trussell Trust food banks in the last 12 months compared to 4,314 in April 2012-March 2013.

Torfaen reported the highest rate of users with 5,346 people receiving emergency food in April 2013-March 2014. The eight Trussell Trust food banks in Gwent provide three days’ nutritionally balanced food to people in crisis. At least 90 per cent of food given out by the food banks is donated by the public.

In the last year, new food banks have opened in Newport and Monmouth, which account for the huge increase in figures.

The Eastern Valley food bank in Pontnewynydd, Pontypool, has only been open a year, but the figures don’t surprise project leader, Jen Taylor.

She said: “We are really busy. We see all sorts. Some people we only see once and don’t see them again, others we stick with and see them out of their crisis. We try to be all things to all people.”

Ms Taylor said they even have ex-clients who just come by for a chat and a cup of coffee now.

“We listen to people’s stories and try to help them.”

Ms Taylor said they have been able to meet the increasing demands, thanks largely to some 38 churches who do regular collections for the food bank, as well as the general public.

A nationwide survey of Trussell Trust food banks recently found over 50 per cent of referrals to food banks in 2013-14 were a result of benefit delays or changes.

Ms Taylor could relate to this and said: “A lot of clients have been left in crisis through the bedroom tax or because they have been sanctioned.

“People out of work – that’s the biggest factor. If jobs could be created, that would ease pressure. People want to work.”

The Trussell Trust’s Chairman, Chris Mould, said: “That 79,049 people in Wales have received three days’ food from a food bank, over double the numbers helped last year, is shocking in 21st century Britain.

“But perhaps most worrying of all this figure is just the tip of the iceberg of UK food poverty, it doesn’t include those helped by other emergency food providers, those living in towns where there is no foodbank, people who are too ashamed to seek help or the large number of people just coping by eating less and buying cheap food.”

County People receiving emergency food

Caerphilly 3260

Blaenau Gwent 3932

Monmouthshire 2616

Newport 1301

Torfaen 5346