THERE has been a “shocking” rise in the number of people using food banks – and those helping the needy in Dorset and Hampshire say the situation is getting worse.

A report published by the Salisbury-based Trussell Trust, which runs more than 400 food banks across the country, says in the last year there has been a 163 per cent rise in people needing emergency food parcels as rising living costs, low pay and welfare reforms hit more people.

More than 913,000 people received three days’ emergency food in the last year, with more than half blaming benefit delays or changes.

Peter Trebilco, Ringwood Foodbank project manager, has been working on setting up a new distribution centre in Verwood to cope with demand, hoped to be open by June.

He said: “What we’ve seen is an increasing number of people coming in.

“When we started off in Ringwood it was fairly quiet.

“The numbers have been increasing month-on-month.

“You don’t want to see them increasing, you don’t want to see people in desperation for food.

“This situation has been getting worse over the last few months.”

Trussell Trust chairman Chris Mould said: “That 900,000 people have received three days’ food from a food bank – close to triple the numbers helped last year – is shocking in 21st century Britain.

“These figures don’t include those helped by other emergency food providers, those living in towns where there is no food bank, people who are too ashamed to seek help or the large number of people who are only just coping by eating less and buying cheap food.”

He called for “determined policy” to ensure that the economic recovery reached those on low incomes.

A letter signed by 36 Anglican bishops and more than 600 church leaders from all major dominations calls for urgent Government action to tackle food poverty.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “We’re spending £94 billion a year on working age benefits so that the welfare system provides a safety net to millions of people who are on low incomes or unemployed so they can meet their basic needs.

“Even the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development says there are fewer people struggling with their food bills compared with a few years ago, benefit processing times are improving and even the Trussell Trust’s own research recognises the effect their marketing activity has on the growth of their business.”