MORE than 1,800 children in north Oxfordshire had to live on three day’s worth of emergency food from food banks last year following a dramatic rise in demand.

New figures published by the Trussell Trust, Oxford-based charity Oxfam and Church Action on Poverty also showed more than 2,500 adults in the county who could not afford to feed themselves were referred to the service.

The previous year 893 children and 993 adults used the food banks in Bicester and Banbury.

The report – called Below the Breadline and released yesterday – claims that Government changes to the welfare system are partly to blame.

There are six other food banks in the county including Cowley-based Community Emergency Foodbank (CEF), which has warned the number of people using its services has risen by 70 per cent in a year.

Based at St Francis Church in Hollow Way, the food bank said it helped 3,300 residents between April 2013 and 2014, with about one third being children. The previous year it saw 1,900.

CEF spokeswoman Jane Benyon said: “The demand has always existed, but more people are now aware of us and more agencies are referring them to us.

“People have also been coming through because of sanctions imposed on them, or delays between switching benefits. The stories have not really changed over the years.”

Referrals to food banks are made by care professionals such as doctors, social workers and the Citizen’s Advice Bureau. The CEF runs from noon to 2pm on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Ms Benyon added: “At the moment the amount of donations we get goes up and down, so we do have to buy food in. We also get about two thirds in through donations, but we always need more.”

Abingdon Emergency Foodbank coordinator Hilary Beale said: “We are getting a lot of families coming in who previously kept things together but are now struggling.”

Oxford City Council has set up “welfare support team” to help benefit claimants with changes.

Executive board member for services Susan Brown said: “This is a worrying increase and from my experience it does seem to be a direct result of government benefit changes.

“The city council will continue to provide assistance, but we also want to avoid the need for them in the first place.”

A spokeswoman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “This report overlooks basic facts about the strength of our welfare system.

“As part of our long-term economic plan we’re fixing the welfare system to improve the lives of some of the poorest families.”

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