PONTYPOOL'S food bank is struggling to meet soaring demand after seeing a six-fold increase in the numbers of people who need it.

The demand for food from the Eastern Valley Foodbank based in Pontnewynydd, has dramatically increased since it opened.

It was set up at the end of January 2013 to provide three days of food to people in a crisis. In January 2013, 90 people visited the foodbank, but that sky-rocketed to 554 last month.

Project leader at the Eastern Valley Foodbank, Jen Taylor, said they were prepared to see a rise in demand over the Christmas period but did not foresee demand continuing at such a high level.

She said: “In December we saw 661 people, but this February we will have seen 650 people, giving out five and a quarter tonnes of food.”

This equates to 6,500 meals given out to people this month.

But with donations running low, the Foodbank staff have spent £1,200 in 2014 out of its reserve funds to buy items to make up the shortfall.

She said: “Increased awareness of the charity has explained the increase, but the changes in the benefits system is the biggest reason that people are finding themselves in a crisis situation.

“The Government needs to change its policies as more and more people are finding themselves in a crisis situation for longer periods.”

A typical food parcel for two parents with one child includes four cans of soup, four cans of meat, two cans of fish, four cans of beans or spaghetti, one pack of biscuits, 1.5kgs of pasta or rice, one box of cereal, 160 teabags or coffee, a carton of juice, two long life milk, 1kg of sugar, one sponge pudding, two tines of rice pudding or custard, two packets of mash, four tins of vegetables, and four tins of chopped tomatoes or pasta sauce.

Ms Taylor said: “We can’t keep up with the demand and we are desperate for donations.

“It’s not sustainable at this current level of demand, so something has to change.”

A Department for Work & Pensions spokesman said: "The benefits system supports millions of people who are on low incomes or unemployed, and there is no robust evidence that welfare reforms are linked to increased use of food banks.

“Our welfare reforms will improve the lives of some of the poorest families in our communities, with Universal Credit making three million households better off, including 200,000 households in Wales who will be better off by an average of £163 per month.

“The UK Government has taken action to cut the cost of living; freezing fuel duty and increasing the tax-free personal allowance to £10,000, which will save a typical taxpayer over £700."

For information about donating to the Eastern Valley Foodbank contact 01495 760605 or email info@easternvalley.foodbank.org.uk