Horncastle’s Community Food Larder provided a vital lifeline to what is understood to be a record number of people in 2013, the News can reveal.
Figures show the larder - based at the town’s Community Centre - was used 58 times between January and December. That is an increase on the 2012 figure of 50.
Some people who turned to the larder were families, including children. Parcels - with enough food for three days - were handed out over Christmas and New Year.
The figures were revealed by Richard Hampton, joint coordinator of the Horncastle facility.
They show the larder dealt with 31 referrals from Horncastle, five from Woodhall Spa, four from Tattershall, four from Coningsby and 14 from other outlying communities.
Mr Hampton said although the increase was a concern, it was not as big as feared following the Government’s controversial changes to the benefit system and the introduction of bedroom taxes.
He also said hikes in household fuel bills had led to an increasing number of people seeking help.
Mr Hampton added: “I am sure people are surprised there is a need for Food Larders in what is essentially a rural area. However, the fact we handed out 58 parcels - eight more than the previous year - shows there is a demand for what is a very important service.
Mr Hampton added the 58 referrals included requests for help from families, couples and single people.
He also said the launch of the County Council-backed Lincolnshire Community Assistance Scheme had also contributed to the smaller than expected increase.
The Horncastle project relies entirely on voluntary donations and Mr Hampton praised the many organisations for their ongoing support, including St Mary’s Church and local Lions and Rotarians.
Mr Hampton added: “We get a lot of support from the local community and I would really like to thank those people for their help.”
He also thanked individuals who had donated food items and said continued support was vital this year with some charities warning of another increase in demand.
People are referred to food larders by recognised agencies like Social Services and Children’s Services.
There are several reasons why people are unable to buy food for themselves, including sudden loss of employment, delays in benefit payments, a drop in household income and unexpected expenditure, including large utility bills.
Food larders can also help victims of domestic violence.
It is thought the number of people using food larders in neighbouring towns - including Louth and Boston - has increased.
The figures come after the Government’s Work and Pensions Secretary Ian Duncan Smith launched a strong attack on a major food larder charity.
Mr Duncan Smith told the Trussell Trust that benefit reforms could not be linked to the rocketing number of people turning to larders for help.
Since last April, more than
500,000 people - one third of them children - received emergency supplies from 400 larders run by the Trust.