THE "devastating" impact of the coronavirus pandemic on families' access to food has been laid bare in sobering new statistics.

The number of food parcels delivered by the Trussell Trust to people struggling to afford essentials in Brighton and Hove shot up by more than 400 per cent between April and September compared to the year before.

And it was a similar story across much of the rest of Sussex as well.

The figures in Rother and Wealden doubled, the Adur data quadrupled, and sharp rises were seen in Mid Sussex, Eastbourne, Chichester, Hastings and Horsham.

The Argus: The Whitehawk Foodbank in BrightonThe Whitehawk Foodbank in Brighton

And now the charity is concerned its food banks will see similarly high levels of demand this winter, with a record 314,000 redundancies in the three months leading up to September.

Chief executive of the Trussell Trust Emma Revie said: "Throughout 2020, communities across the South East have stepped in to provide vital support to people left without enough money.

"Volunteers in food banks have been working hard under extremely difficult circumstances to make sure support is there for people struggling to afford essentials. 

"But it’s not right that any of us are forced to a charity for food, at any time of year. "

In the South East, the Trussell Trust delivered more than 149,000 emergency food parcels to people struggling to afford essentials between April and September.

More than 59,000 of these packages were provided for children - a 74 per cent increase on the same period last year.

And these figures do not include the countless other organisations which have been working tirelessly to support those most in need during these challenging times, such as other charities, community projects and local authorities.

Ms Revie said: "In the last few weeks, we’ve seen incredible compassion and concern for people facing hunger following Marcus Rashford’s brilliant campaigning.

The Argus: A foobank crateA foobank crate

"And it's hugely welcome to see the government build on steps already taken by providing significant new funding for local councils in England.

"This vital local support must work in coordination with a national welfare system that is strong enough to act as a lifeline to anyone struggling to afford the essentials.  

"This pandemic has shown the unexpected can hit us suddenly, with devastating consequences for people’s lives.

"But it’s also shown we can make huge changes to the way we live and look after each other.

"It’s shown that when we come together to push for change, the government responds. 

"Together, we can build a hunger free future.”  

The Argus:

The government has recently announced a £170m Covid Winter Grant Scheme for England in an attempt to prevent people from falling into destitution.

The Trussell Trust welcomed the news, but urged the government to go further to protect vulnerable people.

Addressing the government, a spokesman said: "Ensure money is kept in the pockets of people who need it most by locking in the £20 rise to Universal Credit, brought in at the start of the pandemic, and making sure that people currently excluded, such as people receiving payments through the legacy system, get this money too .

"Also, help people hold on to more of their benefits by suspending benefit debt deductions until a fairer approach to repayments can be introduced."

The Argus: A Morrison's foodbank depositA Morrison's foodbank deposit

Figures show the increase in reliance on foodbanks in Sussex since the UK was plunged into lockdown

There is one Trussell Trust foodbank in Brighton and Hove, the Whitehawk Foodbank, which distributed 753 food parcels between April 1 and September 30 2019.

A total of 433 packages were delivered to children in 2019.

During the same period in 2020, 3,072 food parcels were delivered, with 2,003 given to children.