FOODBANKS in Dorset are bracing themselves for their busiest Christmas period so far as the number of people in crisis is rising.

The Trussell Trust, the charity which runs hundreds of foodbanks across the country, said December last year was its busiest month on record, with almost 150,000 three-day emergency food supplies given out, including 61,000 to children.

In Bournemouth, over 900 people had to use a foodbank in December and January, and project director Debbie Bramley is expecting that number to rise this year.

“The numbers have picked up again, which is worrying. There’s a lot more need due to Universal Credit and we’re expecting the number to get higher.

“We’re concerned the number will increase across town quite considerably, and we’re bracing ourselves for it.”

Many foodbanks will be distributing presents this year as well as food, and more than ever will be running holiday clubs and community meals for families over the Christmas break.

Christchurch Food Bank, which was set up by Christchurch Fellowship of Churches (CFOC) and works in partnership with Faithworks Wessex, is also preparing for its busiest festive season to date.

Tracy Blick, projects managing coordinator, said: “Last year was busy – we had 587 mouths to feed in December, which is a horrific amount of people.

“We’re already expecting that number to be higher this year, especially as we have all eight schools signed up to the Holiday Hunger scheme. It could rise by 50 per cent. More and more families are using foodbanks now. A mother came to us yesterday as she has been signed off work until January. She was in tears.

“Year on year, we’re getting busier, but the donations in Christchurch are amazing.”

Alistair Doxat-Purser, chief executive of Faithworks Wessex, said a ‘satellite’ of Poole Food Bank had been set up in Canford Heath to meet increasing demand in the area.

Debbie Abrahams, Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said: “Despite what the Government might think, it is absolutely unacceptable that so many families rely on foodbanks to get through Christmas.

“We know that the Tories’ botched Universal Credit roll out, and their freeze to social security, are causing people to visit foodbanks to make ends meet.

“The social security system should not increase the need for foodbanks.

“Labour is calling on the Government to pause and fix Universal Credit before Christmas, and lift the harmful social security freeze.”