FOODBANKS have seen a huge spike in referrals since the start of the shool holidays.

A lack of free school meals during the summer break has left hundreds of parents struggling to feed their children, and many have been forced to seek help from voluntary organisations.

Community Solutions North West, which deliveres parcels to East Lancashire families from its warehouse in Burnley, said it had been fully prepared for the increase in demand.

Director Mark Hirst said: “We normally deliver about 200 food parcels each week, but in the summer we’ve seen an increase in demand of about 20 per cent. But this wasn’t something that surprised us and we were ready for it.

“We are slightly different to other Foodbanks in that our volunteers use the delivery times to engage with people, to try and get them help so they don’t need to use the service again.”

Ros Duerden, of Blackburn with Darwen Foodbank, said: “We’ve seen a dramatic increase in families needing our services in the summer.

“Donations are nowhere near to meeting the need so we’re having to spend about £1,000 per week on food at the moment, which isn’t sustainable.

“People out there are really desperate and we need the public’s help to keep the donations coming in.”

In July, the Foodbank gave food parcels to 945 people, compared to just 586 in April.

Ros said the charity will have a collection stand at Asda in Blackburn today, which is hoped to bring in about one-and-a-half tonnes of food.

Earlier this year, the Lancashire Telegraph revealed figures which suggested Blackburn with Darwen has the highest proportion of underweight children in England, which raised concerns about increasing poverty and malnutrition levels in the borough.

To donate to Community Solutions North West call 01254 352591, or email and to donate to Blackburn with Darwen Foodbank call 01254 672756, or call 07594215356 to arrange a collection.