A Trussell Trust foodbank. Photo credit: Newfrontiers via photopin cc

The UK’s largest foodbank charity is warning of record levels of demand over Christmas, with struggling families facing stark choices between eating and heating.

Referrals to Trussell Trust foodbanks were 53% higher in December 2014 than the average across other months, with more than 130,000 food parcels given to families and individuals in desperate need.

The charity warns that this December could see even more people forced to turn to foodbanks, as figures show that demand has increased by 14,000.

Trussell Trust handed out 506,369 food parcels between April and September 2015, compared to 492,641 over the same period in the previous year.

Each food parcel contains the equivalent of three-days worth of food and can only be received following a referral from a frontline professional, such as housing associations and children’s centres.

As well as providing critical food aid, Trussell Trust offer services ranging from money management, housing advice and help with claiming social security benefits.

Single mum Louise (not her real name) was reduced to tears after a London foodbank gave Christmas presents for her children.

Louise said: “Christmas makes it so much worse when you have no money. My kids love Christmas, and I do too, but this year I can’t wait for it to be over.

“It’s so hard seeing all the adverts and knowing I can’t afford to celebrate.

“I was stunned when the foodbank gave me presents, it was so special, I didn’t expect it. It will make Christmas a little bit easier, I do thank them.”

Trussell Trust is to receive a welcome Christmas present of £748,423 from the Big Lottery Fund, which will help to increase support for low-income households in England over the festive period.

Trussell Trust CEO David McAuley, said: “Winter is the hardest time of year for people living on the breadline; many will face stark choices between eating and heating.

“Every year we meet families who are worried about having anything to eat on Christmas Day, who have been living and sleeping in one room to keep heating costs to the absolute minimum.

“Foodbank use is likely to rise significantly over the winter months and we’re anticipating that it could peak at the highest level yet this Christmas.

“Increasingly, Trussell Trust foodbanks are able to provide additional support services to help resolve some the underlying causes of foodbank use, and this will be especially impactful over the winter months.

“We are incredibly grateful to the Big Lottery Fund for their generous support in enabling foodbanks to help families and individuals at the point of crisis to get back onto their feet more quickly.

“The funding couldn’t come at a better time”, he said

Lyn Cole, Big Lottery Fund, England Grant Making Director, said: “As Christmas approaches and most families look forward to exchanging presents and enjoying a turkey meal in the comforts of a warm home, unfortunately many people will be struggling simply to make ends meet.

“Our award to the Trussell Trust will help communities across England by not only providing access to emergency food relief but also advice on debt, welfare, housing and food preparation to help prevent repeated use of foodbanks.”