FOOD banks in Powys issued record levels of support to Powys residents over the Christmas period, but charities say the worst could be yet to come as government benefit changes begin to hit.

The news comes after national UK hunger charity the Trussell Trust released figures which reveal the year on year need for foodbanks is increasing steeply with Christmas a crunch-point for many families, the most recent figures suggesting a 49 per cent increase in December.

Volunteers at Newtown’s food bank issued more than a hundred food hampers, while 185 children have received gifts donated to the Newtown Salvation Army Corps this Christmas, and in Knighton the food bank provided the equivalent of 332 adult meals and 189 children’s meals.

In Welshpool, volunteers said they had given out a staggering 1.8 tonnes of goods while in Llanidloes, solicitors Milwyn Jenkins & Jenkins have been collecting food, clothing, toiletries and gifts with organisers stating there had been an increase in Christmas donations.

Powys County Council’s Anti-Poverty champion Cllr Joy Jones paid tribute to the work of the Salvation Army in Newtown, which she described as ‘vital’.

“I am so grateful for all the hard work that Newtown Salvation Army has done this year running the foodbank. With many more people and families finding it extremely difficult to cope on benefits or are struggling on low incomes, the foodbank has become a lifeline,” she said.

“The Salvation Army has worked very hard to make sure that not only people have food and essentials but that they are able to help sign post people to where there is other help.

“It is very hard for people to have to ask for help as no-one wants to have to rely on a foodbank but with all the cut backs in benefits and job redundancies it can be the only place to turn to when you are in need.”

Figures from the Trussell Trust, which runs Welshpool’s food bank, show that the number of people helped with three-day food parcels across the UK increased by 6.6 per cent to the end of March last year, and 12.7 per cent to the end of March 31, 2018.

Helen Anderson, manager of Knighton Food Bank which has been in operation for six years, said they were expecting an increase in referrals to the service in the new year due to the introduction of the UK Government’s controversial new Universal Credit benefit.

“We are expecting the take up to increase further this year, as more people suffer hardship as a result of claiming Universal Credit. We currently have several families who have been waiting between 8-10 weeks and still haven’t received a payment.

“The economic recession has affected many people and residents of Knighton & the surrounding villages are not immune. For some it can be a struggle to put food on the table, especially when faced with a sudden crisis.

“The real people who come to us for help can’t shout it from the roof tops or put their name to letters in the newspaper but if they could meet you, I know they would shake your hand and say ‘thank you for giving the money to keep food on the table and for letting me keep my dignity in desperate times’.”