THE number of people forced to use a food bank to feed themselves has risen by 80 per cent year on year.

Whitehawk Foodbank in Brighton gave out 1,186 emergency food packages between April and September this year, almost double the number it distributed in the same period last year.

This is well above the national increase of 23 per cent year on year.

One of those users is 64-year-old Whitehawk resident, known only as Ms Murphy, who began receiving emergency food eight months ago.

“I was walking the dogs with my friend one day and I mentioned how I didn’t have enough to feed myself after I paid for bills and dog food,” the retired cleaner said.

“So my friend told me to come here. I originally said ‘no way’ but now I don’t know what I’d do without it.”

Ms Murphy said she spends “24 hours a day inside” because she does not qualify for a pension at her age.

“Because the pension age has been changed I won’t get a pension for another two years so I’m left with nothing,” she said. “And I’ve got a spare bedroom so my housing benefit is hit with bedroom tax too. It’s so horrible. All I do is sit inside 24 hours a day with my pets.

“I don’t have any money for bus fare to go to Poundland or anything like that.

“I used to work as a cleaner for different pubs in Whitehawk but they’ve all shut down now.”

Whitehawk Foodbank’s Anne Amner said the 80 per cent rise in emergency food packages was a “real concern” heading into winter.

“As the colder weather draws in, we often find even more people needing our help,” she said.

“Right now, more and more people in Whitehawk and East Brighton are being forced to our food bank’s doors. This isn’t right.”

Ms Amner said a number of causes were behind the rise, including high rents in the city.

And she called for the next Government to end the five-week wait recipients of the Universal Credit benefit must endure before payments begin.

A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions responded: “Under Universal Credit people can get paid urgently if they need it and 95 per cent of payments are made in full and on time.

“We spend over £95 billion a year on welfare, and have simplified the benefits system through Universal Credit.”