FOOD bank charity the Trussell Trust is bracing itself for its busiest-ever December, as new figures show the same month in 2018 was the charity’s busiest time of year.

The Trussell Trust has called on the next government to solve the country’s food bank crisis amid fears demand is rising at the fastest rate in the past five years.

Last December, there were 412 referrals to the charity’s centres in Monmouthshire – an increase of nine per cent on the previous year. A third of these referrals (152) were for children.

This number is up on December 2017, when the Trussell Trust recorded 378 referrals. Of these, one-in-four were for children.

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The figures do not include referrals to food banks run by other charities or organisations, such as Caldicot Food Bank – which earlier this year had recorded a more than 50 per cent rise in demand.

The Trussell Trust, which has branches in Abergavenny, Chepstow, and Monmouth, is now preparing itself for another Christmas period of high demand.

“Christmas is supposed to be a time of joy and celebration – but for too many people it’s becoming harder and harder to keep their heads above water,” the charity’s chief executive, Emma Revie, said. “Nine in 10 of us believe hunger in the UK is a problem – food banks cannot and should not have to continue to pick up the pieces.”

Ms Revie said the next government must prioritise a solution to the UK’s growing dependence on food banks. Between April and September this year, the Trussell Trust said, the charity has given out 823,145 three-day emergency food parcels across the UK.

“Our next government must start working towards a future where no one needs a food bank,” she said. “It’s not inevitable that every Christmas we hear stories about families needing food banks.

“It’s in our power to reach a future where everyone has enough money for the basics. This can change.”

Mr Revie said people could help by finding out which items their local food bank was most in need of and donating as soon as possible.

She also called on voters to lobby all their local General Election candidates to pledge to protect people from hunger and make sure everyone had enough money for the basics.