Ipswich/Suffolk: The 60-year-olds forced to shoplift to stop stave off hunger, newborns needing milk and a woman, 94, relying on food hand outs - the reason Suffolk needs foodbanks

A Christmas hamped handed out to those in need in Stowmarket

A Christmas hamped handed out to those in need in Stowmarket

Sixty year-olds have resorted to stealing food leaving them with criminal records, the director of an Ipswich food bank has said.

It comes as new figures show that more people claimed food in six months last year than the whole of the previous year in Suffolk. The Trussell Trust said that 2,148 people visited one of its three food banks in the county between April and September last year, while in Essex 8,293 visited one of 14 food banks. Thousands more food parcels have also been distributed around the region by other charities and organisations.

Ipswich-based independent charity Families in Need (FIND) director Maureen Reynel said her charity helps people ranging from families with newborn babies to a woman in her 90s.

FIND delivered 334 food parcels in January, with a similar amount delivered this month. Last year the charity delivered more than 4,100 food parcels.

Mrs Reynel said: “If you look through all the records it is very much people being sanctioned, people whose benefits have stopped for a few weeks, or even months.

“There is a big black hole in the middle where people have to borrow. They have payday loans. There are people who have jobs, but they don’t have enough money to pay the bills.

“A lot of it is down to the fact that benefits have changed drastically and people are really in dire straits. It is old ladies. I have a lady who is 94, I have newborns who need milk. There are a couple of 60 year-olds who now have criminal records who couldn’t afford to eat so they stole. They didn’t know anything about being on probation until then.”

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She added: “There is certainly no improvement. I am hoping that in a couple of years we can close all the foodbanks and just keep a few. But at the moment that is not a possibility. At the moment we have got to keep caring for these people and try to keep them from having a criminal record.”

FIND generally helps people who have been referred by other government agencies.

The Trussell Trust figures were prepared for Eastern Euro MEP Richard Howitt who wants the government to claim cash to help people suffering extreme poverty.

The fund was backed in a vote at the European Parliament last week, but the government is unlikely to accept it, saying food aid was better decided nationally rather than by Brussels.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) insisted that taking the funding would mean other schemes missed out and stressed that Britain was not losing the cash.

Mr Howitt said that the figures showed there had been a “phenomenal increase” in the numbers using foodbanks last year, and accused the government of not helping the poorest because of it was anti-EU.

He became involved in negotiating the fund after calls for help from the Trussell Trust charity, which has said the block would mean British food banks would lose out on £3million from funds allocated to the UK.

The Trussell Trust is behind the East Suffolk Foodbank, Haverhill Foodbank and Lakenheath Foodback. It is also behind the Clacton Foodbank, Colchester Foodbank, Basildon Foodbank, Chelmsford Foodbank.