THE number of people using East Lancashire’s foodbanks over the Christmas period has rocketed, the Lancashire Telegraph can reveal.

In Blackburn 638 meals were distributed last month - three-and-a-half times the amount provided in December 2012.

Almost half of those in need - 305 - were children, according to figures collected by the foodbank’s project manager, Ros Duerden.

In Burnley and Hyndburn, Community Solutions received 484 referrals to their service, a 128 per cent increase on December 2012.

Ms Duerden said the figures were even more concerning given that the Blackburn Foodbank was closed for more than a week over Christmas and the New Year.

She said: “We closed simply because many of the agencies we work with, those who verify that people’s needs are genuine, were also closed.

“We flooded the agencies with food boxes before Christmas and their emergency teams were on hand to give them out when needed.

“We were very, very busy in the run up to Christmas.”

Among more than 100 agencies which recommend people to the foodbank are schools, children’s centres, GPs, charities and council departments.

In December 2012, the same foodbank helped 184 people, although it had only been in operation for one month at that point.

Caroline Collins, from Rossendale’s RAFT Foundation, which sent food parcels to 180 families last month, urged communities to continue to support the food banks.

She said: “Everything we do is made possible because of a huge collective effort.

Genevieve Waite, from Community Solutions, added: “We were receiving extra donations in the run-up to Christmas but the work we do is still needed all year round.

“The need is huge and we have an incredible opportunity to respond further: increase our storage space; increase our volunteers; increase partnerships; increase food diversion from landfill; increase the number of people supported and influence nationally to provide a food bank model with a difference.”