THE number of residents using the Romsey food bank has almost doubled since its opening in 2016.

Figures revealed by the charity, which supports people in Romsey and the surrounding villages, show that 642 residents were helped between 2016 and 2017.

But according to data, 1,215 residents used the food bank between 2017 and 2018.

The most recent figures, which include the number of residents who benefitted from the service between March 2018 and March 2019, have not yet been released.

But Romsey food bank manager Jo Topley said a small increase on last year has already been seen.

Ms Topley said the food bank had been “frightfully busy” in December 2018 and particularly the week before Christmas.

This comes after police officers took pity on a thief who was caught trying to take groceries from outside a home in Romsey.

Ms Topley said many families in and around Romsey relied on the school dinner as the only hot meal their children have during the day. She has now welcomed £1,800 donated by local councillors Celia and Alan Dowden.

But she said more must be done to support people in need in and around Romsey, and has confirmed that the food bank team will look into the possibility of keeping the food bank open Monday to Friday rather than just Wednesdays and Fridays.

Ms Topley said some residents were surprised when the food bank was first opened in Romsey and told her there was no need for it in the area.

But she added: “We are having a big increase, and more children are needing support. People are much more aware that we exist.”

She said the increase in the number of users was due to a series of factors including changes in the benefits system and Universal Credit.

She said the food bank will be working alongside local schools and that more funds were needed to ensure it opened five days a week.

North Baddesley councillor Celia Dowden recently presented Ms Topley with a cheque of £1,000 from Test Valley Borough Council community grant.

She said: “I was quite shocked at the increase of numbers within the last year and particularly that for some children their school meal is the only hot meal they received every day. ”

County councillor Alan Dowden has also donated £800 to the charity.

The food bank is open for collection on Wednesdays at the centre at Unit 20, Romsey Industrial Estate, from 10.30am to 12.30pm and on Fridays at the Community Life Centre in North Baddesley from 10am to noon.

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