PEOPLE in the Forest struggling to feed themselves and their children are to be thrown a lifeline.
Save the Children says children are going to school hungry in Hampshire and Dorset because they don't get a proper breakfast, and one in four parents are missing meals in order to feed their children.
And in Ringwood, Fordingbridge, Verwood and the villages in between, food poverty is a fact for hundreds of families.
Now Ringwood residents Jacqueline Brown, Claire Skelly and Jim Hogg are launching a foodbank with the help of Salisbury-based charity The Trussell Trust.
They are looking for people to help, along with a distribution centre and warehouse.
Mrs Brown said: “While I was a school governor at Ringwood School I learned about the poverty some of the children were living in. This is perceived to be an affluent area yet there are pockets of deprivation in the town.
“We want to start a foodbank under the umbrella of the work done by the Trussell Trust, which has organised foodbanks in Salisbury and Bournemouth.
“We think these foodbanks are too far away for the hundreds of people in this area who are going hungry for a number of reasons. Many are working but when an unexpected bill drops in, for example to fix the car, they are having to make choices between fixing it or buying food.
“We would be a short-term measure – most people use the foodbank on average three times, but we can help solve issues that put people in food poverty in the first place.”
People using the foodbank will be given vouchers by doctors, schools or social workers, to allow them enough food for three days.
The rising cost of food and fuel, combined with static incomes, high unemployment and changes to benefits have seen increasing numbers turn to foodbanks over the last 18 months.
Trussell Trust executive chairman Chris Mould said: “The trust has seen firsthand the devastating impact of rising food prices on people.
“It means the budgets of people on the breadline are stretched even further, so even a small change in financial circumstances can push people into a crisis where they cannot afford food.
“Many low-income working families are living on a knife edge. This rise in food prices could be enough to tip them into poverty, especially as winter approaches and heating costs increase. Christmas is looking bleak for thousands of UK families.”
Operations manager of New Forest Citizens Advice Bureau Sandra Ollett said the plan could not have come at a better time.
She said: “In areas like Ringwood, food poverty remains hidden, as the area is considered to be affluent. We know the numbers of people using foodbanks across the county are increasing and we know elderly people are reluctant to ask for help.
“To have a high-profile foodbank like this one is very timely in view of the Government's welfare reforms. However, most people who use foodbanks are in work, many part-time, many on low pay.
“But the changes to cap benefits, introduce universal credits and to disability benefits will have a profound effect on people in the coming year.
“I believe we have just touched the tip of the iceberg. More than 128,000 people are already using foodbanks in the UK.”