MORE than 1,000 emergency food boxes were handed out in Taunton between the start of April and the end of September.

And things are set to get harder for people struggling to make ends meet when winter sets in.

Taunton Foodbank manager Sue Weightman said 1,015 boxes supplying three days' food for 2,135 local people, including 773 children, were given out over the six months.

Although that represents a six per cent decrease on the same period last year, nationally the Foodbank network has this week reported an increase in aid it has offered.

The charity in the county town had been hoping for a larger decrease in the numbers of people needing emergency food supplies following improvements to the administration of the Universal Credit benefit.

But, despite the changes, the Foodbank has still needed to give emergency food and support to people waiting for a first payment and those receiving payments but finding it insufficient to cover the cost of essentials.

Figures show an increase in those needing help because of sickness, debt, homelessness and low income.

Ms Weightman said: "It’s a real concern that in only six months we’ve provided over 1,000 emergency boxes to local people.

"These figures don’t even cover our busiest time of year – as the colder weather draws in, we often find more people needing our help.

"It’s not right that anyone in Taunton Deane is being forced to turn to our foodbank.

"Our volunteers offer vital support when it matters most, but they should not need to.

"We want to see an end to local people needing emergency food – with a benefits system that catches people before they fall into crisis, and secure work that provides people with enough money to cover the cost of essentials, we could reach that future.

"We’re determined to make sure that until that time comes, emergency help is here for people, but there needs to be some long-term change because we don’t want to be here forever."

Taunton Foodbank is appealing for long life juice, squash, toiletries, tinned rice pudding and custard, tinned cold meat.

Festive donations should be made by early December to ensure volunteers have time to process and distribute them before Christmas.

The running costs for Taunton Foodbank are £24,500 a year, which is raised locally to pay for warehouse space, a part-time manager and other overheads such as utilities and insurance.

The foodbank welcomes any offers of help with funding via

Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey announced this week that Universal Credit claimants will be given more time to switch to the new benefit.

She said claimants would not have to wait so long for their money and debt repayments would be reduced.