DESPITE talk of an economic upturn the number of people fed by Andover foodbank soared by 29 per cent in 2013 – far exceeding the organisation’s expectations.

Of the 5,597 people fed during the year 1,799 were children, with December being the busiest month.

Organisers say the rise in numbers was caused by an increase in the number of people facing crisis within the Test Valley.

Although the Trussell Trust and foodbanks in general received increased publicity throughout 2013 the local group says it has no evidence that this inflated the number of those it fed.

Its partners at professional care agencies give food vouchers only to clients that they assess are in crisis and they continue to work with these clients to resolve longer term issues.

In addition to difficult economic conditions changes arising from the Welfare Reform Act 2012 were thought to be a factor in the increased demand in the second half of 2013.

One thing that improved in 2013 was that benefit delay was a factor in only 34.13 per cent of cases compared to 37 per cent in 2012.

The main reasons for crisis remain financial and the foodbank has continued to see clients in work but struggling to pay their bills on part-time hours.

Foodbank secretary Annie Mihell said: “With generous food and financial donations and volunteer support we were able to meet this demand and run a number of other initiatives including cookery courses for young mothers and the introduction of a garden to grow produce and provide work opportunities for supported volunteers.

“Our growth has required a reassessment of our warehouse capacity and we have now leased a warehouse at commercial rates.

“This has a huge impact on our running costs and in 2014 we will be focusing on fundraising to ensure that we can secure the stability of the Andover foodbank.”