A West Midlands charity providing emergency food supplies is to open two new centres after demand for its services increased by 50 per cent in a year.
The Halesowen-based Black Country Foodbank has fed 6,500 people in 2011 and will open new branches in Upper Gornal and Coseley in the New Year to help needy residents.
The voluntary organisation, set up at Chawn Hill Church, Halesowen in 2006, now has seven centres in the area, providing emergency food like beans, soup, cereal, meat, tomatoes and sugar to hard-pressed householders.
Founder Wendy Fryatt said the extra demand was unexpected.
“There was no way we could have prepared for this – it was unprecedented," she said.
"It’s just snowballed. Some of the stories we are getting are absolutely horrendous.
“The classic one was the other day. I was told by one of the volunteers about a guy who’s still working but he’s not been paid for two weeks. His employer just hasn’t got any money.
“This guy had been living on Oxo cubes and boiling water. There’s no way if he goes to a job centre that he’ll be able to get any money.
"There is just no provision for things like that. We are seeing more and more families with quite young children accessing the services.
“We are voluntary and we don’t get any public funding. We fall through every crack when we apply for funding. These are churches that are stepping up to the plate.
Volunteer Phil added: “They [people] must be desperate to come and ask. People’s pride normally inhibits them from doing it. These poor families haven’t got anything – it’s what drives us to keep going.”
Stourbridge Conservative MP Margot James said: “The Government’s job is to provide that safety net which is obviously missing in the cases that Wendy has described.”
Ms James said the benefits system worked “in the majority of cases” but there were some “very unfortunate people” who fell through the net.
“There are mechanisms whereby voluntary organisations can apply for Government funding,” she said.
> More information and how to help at www.blackcountryfoodbank.org.uk