A BOURNEMOUTH foodbank says it is receiving up to ten referrals per day from families who can't afford to buy food.

The referrals are coming from as far away as Ringwood says Claire Matthews, who runs Hope for Food and says she saw 98 families accept help in just one day last week.

She was speaking after Britain's largest foodbank charity, the Trussell Trust, warned that thousands of children will suffer holiday hunger this summer because they'll be cut off from free school lunches during the annual six-week vacation.

Claire Matthews said: "We are bracing ourselves for the summer holidays because our shelves are almost empty."

She said her charity - which she started with one family six years ago - was now helping up to 600 people.

Her comments mirror the statistic that in just ten years, foodbank use in the UK has soared by 5,000 per cent.

Claire blames much of the trouble on Universal Credit, the government's flagship benefit which can often take eight weeks to arrive in recipients' bank accounts.

"People have to be referred by schools, job centres or social services but we never turn anybody away and we're getting referrals from as far away as Ringwood," she said.

Meanwhile the Trussell Trust's Bournemouth branch said it was gearing up to provide

more than 2,000 extra lunch boxes and nearly 300 extra food parcels to help families living in poverty through the summer holidays. It says the additional need has left it 'stretched'.

The news comes on the back of the Trust's, announcement that the number of emergency food parcels it delivered last year soared by nearly 20 per cent and it fears an increase on that during summer 2019.

Last year the Trust, distributed 87,496 food parcels for children during July and August 2018, up from 73,226 the previous year.

A spokesman for Bournemouth Foodbank said: "We are so privileged to live in this amazing part of the country and yet we are having to provide 2,030 extra lunch boxes and 286 extra food parcels throughout the six weeks of the school holidays, to enable families who usually have free school meals for their children to be able to manage."

The charity urged the public to donate food, warning that summer holidays can mean children missing out on school meals, and the extra cost of childcare can cause difficulties for hard-pressed families.

Food bank use overall increased by 19 per cent from 2018 to 2019, according to the Trussell Trust's figures, and the charity expects the trend to continue.

Chief executive Emma Revie said: "Food banks will do all they can to help families over the summer, with many running holiday clubs to support parents who find that their income simply won't stretch to meet the extra pressure of missing free school meals or paying for additional childcare during the holidays.

"But no charity can replace the dignity of having enough money for the basics."

She called on the Government to ensure that benefit payments cover the "true cost of living" and that work pays a "real living wage".

Only last month a Community Fridges was opened in Boscombe to help those in food poverty.

The community fridge is given half a ton of food a week by local supermarkets including the Tesco Extra near the Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospital and the Southbourne and Lansdowne Co-ops.