THE local community has been praised for its overwhelming generosity in donating to a charity impacting lives around Tynedale.

Over the festive period schools, businesses and sports teams have been among those donating food and resources to the West Northumberland Foodbank.

The food bank, on Burn Lane, Hexham, handled a record 2,986 requests for help between 2018-19 – up 37 per cent over the past year with 41 per cent of people using the service for the first time.

In Tynedale overall, 1,100 people from 493 households, including 450 children, were provided with food and support from three food banks in Hexham, Prudhoe and Haltwhistle.

The festive period is often outlined as the time when donations are needed more than ever.

The Trussel Trust charity, which provides support to a nationwide network of food banks, said: “Every year, food banks in our network see a spike in demand in the run up to Christmas as they do all they can to make sure people aren’t left hungry over the festive season.

“Without generous donations from the general public, this simply wouldn’t be possible. Your support can make a real difference to people in crisis over Christmas, making sure that food banks are able to meet increased demand.”

Project co-ordinator of West Northumberland Foodbank, Sam Gilchrist, said: “It’s been absolutely incredible. We have been overwhelmed with the generosity of the local community.

“Austerity is biting on the older generations a lot too, and we have seen more and more examples of that this year.

“We have not necessarily had the uptake that the Trussel trust are reporting because we live in such a good community where people donate a lot of the time.”

The food bank also collected Christmas gifts for children of families who sought help at the food bank through its angel tree campaign.

Visitors to the BP petrol station in Hexham were invited to buy an angel from the tree, where each angel had a handwritten Christmas present wish list from local children.

Donors were then encouraged to take the angel and gifts unwrapped back to the petrol station in time for Christmas Day.

“We have had people bringing presents to the food bank in tears saying they didn’t realise how bad the situation some people are in is,” Sam added.

“A lot of people throughout Tynedale are finding themselves in a situation where they are struggling badly.”

Broomley First School are one of many schools to donate, and filled five shopping trollies with food and resources for the food bank.

Teacher Karen Swann said: “The school council decided help the local community and help those less fortunate.

“Christmas is all about giving and it gave the children the idea of how you can help others during the festive period.

“Around 140 children at the school took part as well as all staff and people at the pre-school. I am absolutely overwhelmed with the response.”

Pizza vendors Fire and Dough also visited the food bank last week to serve pizzas for all visitors free of charge.

Sam said: “In the run up to Christmas we have been working with about 500 households to ensure they are full stocked while we are closed for two weeks.

“People with families and those on Universal Credit are really worried about getting through to January with enough resources.”