MORE than 4,800 people had to turn to foodbanks in Wirral for help in the last six months.

Wirral Foodbank, which has 14 distribution centres across the borough, helped 4,829 people between April and September this year.

That figure includes 1,676 children whose families did not have enough money to buy food for the week.

While the latest figures show a slight drop in foodbank use compared to the same period last year – when 5,877 people received three-day emergency food supplies from the charity – the numbers are still of great concern and show that hunger is still a problem across the borough.

Across the north west, foodbanks gave 73,562 three-day food supplies to those in crisis, compared to 74,591 during the same period in 2014. Currently, the north west provides the highest number of food supplies in the country.

The Trussell Trust, who run foodbanks across the country, told the Globe they welcome the slight reduction in foodbank use but also warned that it does not necessarily mean there is a reduction in need.

Benefit delays and changes remain the biggest cause of foodbank use in the north west, accounting for 50% of total referrals – the same as last year – while low income still accounts as a referral cause for 20%.

Birkenhead MP Frank Field, who chairs the all-party Parliamentary inquiry into hunger and food poverty in Britain, said the group will be “drilling down” into the data to find out why different numbers of people in various parts of the country have become exposed to hunger.

Describing the figures as “of great concern”, Mr Field said: “Here in Birkenhead, for example, we noticed an impact during the school holidays when the Feeding Birkenhead campaign laid on free hot meals and fun activities, without any kind of stigma, for over 2,000 children.

“We will publish a report before Christmas setting out our findings across the country and, most importantly, what needs to take place next year and every year thereafter to abolish hunger.”

Foodbanks are increasingly providing additional services to help people out of poverty.

Trussell Trust is currently working with npower to pilot “fuelbanks” which give prepayment meter top ups for people struggling to afford energy as well as food. This winter will be the first that fuelbanks have been in operation.

Wirral Foodbank has been part of the npower fuelbank pilot, operating out of three of its 14 distribution centres.

Richard Roberts, trustee for Wirral Foodbank, said: “Winter is a tough time as fuel bills rise, adding to the financial pressure for those we help.

“The fuelbank scheme is for clients with a Wirral Foodbank voucher, who could be eligible to receive £30 credit which they can use to repay emergency credit and top up their gas and electricity meter.

“This enables householders that have run out of energy to get the power back on within a few hours and keep the lights on and heating on for around a week.”

Since launching the pilot in July, Wirral Foodbank has issued 554 vouchers – equating to 647 adults and 45 children – totalling £15,870.

Anne Danks, north of England manager for the Trussell Trust, said: “While we would like to see a substantial decrease in numbers needing help, latest figures from the Trussell Trust foodbank network show that foodbank use is still at record levels nationally, and poverty is still a reality for too many people in Merseyside.

“As it gets colder, foodbanks are seeing people struggling to afford energy as well as food. Research from Turn2Us shows that one in two low income households are struggling to afford their energy costs, despite being in work, and that 33% of those struggling have had to skip meals.”

Despite receiving tonnes of food on a weekly basis, Wirral Foodbank still needs the help of local people to fill their shelves.

  • If you can help, visit the foodbank warehouse at Unit 14, Wirral Business Centre, Dock Road, Birkenhead, CH41 1JW.