A TYNEDALE food bank has issued a desperate plea for donations of food and household essentials after being overwhelmed by people on the breadline.

The West Northumberland Foodbank, on Burn Lane, Hexham, handled a record 2,986 requests for help over the last year – up 37 per cent over the past year with 41 per cent of people using the service for the first time.

Sam Gilchrist, project co-ordinator at the food bank, is appealing for more donations to be able to cope with the rising demand.

She said: “The shelves are becoming increasingly bare due to the amount of people using the service.

“I cannot praise the invaluable work that everybody does here enough. We have around 30 volunteers from the local churches and trained support workers who work three times a week.

“It’s so humiliating having to ask someone for food, so we aim to help in as many ways as possible, not just with food but also with support for job matters, health visits or welfare appointments. As a charity, we are here to provide targeted support and, above all, kindness to people who are feeling alone and overwhelmed.”

Last year a total of more than 1,100 people from 493 households, including 450 children, were provided with food and support from three food banks in Hexham, Prudhoe and Haltwhistle. And at a time of declining funding to charities from the Government, the help of local communities has seen £64,500 worth of food and household essentials donated to the charity throughout the year.

One visitor, who travels a 40 mile round trip to visit once a week, said the service the charity provided was life-changing.

“It’s exceptionally important because I would have been right under and probably wouldn’t have a roof over my head if it wasn’t for the support here,” she said.

“The staff here are absolutely marvellous. When I first came, I thought I was going to have so much difficulty with what I need, especially with my dietary requirements.

“Instead, I’m constantly bowled over by their generosity and support with not just food but my piles of paperwork too.”

Local businesses have also raised money for the food bank. In December, Tesco brought in 135 crates of donations and a £1,200 cheque. Hexham Mayor’s Community Chest and the Screwfix foundation also paid for a refurbishment of the premises in Hexham.