THE number of people in Wadebridge and Padstow living in hardship is increasing and forcing them to seek emergency food parcels to feed their families.
Between April and October almost 800 residents sought help from volunteers at the Wadebridge Foodbank, with the number of people in crisis and seeking free food expected to continue rising.
Across North Cornwall, figures show that 9,300 people are living on the poverty line, 4,000 of them children.
Wadebridge Foodbank manager Jacqui White said the number of people using the facility at Bridgend had doubled in 2011 and would increase again this year.
Mrs White said perceptions of the type of person who asked for free food could often be wrong.
"People tend to think that it's mainly young homeless people or the elderly that use our service, but that is far from the truth – those in need come from all age groups.
"In fact we don't have many elderly people using the foodbank because they tend to have a fixed income through their pensions and can budget for things.
"Instead it's people who are finding it hard to support themselves and their families, perhaps through losing their job or not having the means to feed their family once they have paid their other bills or when a crisis occurs."
Mrs White said people would be surprised at the type of people seeking help.
"Recently we had a lady come who admitted she was quite mortified to be here.
"She was a qualified legal secretary with two children who simply could not find a job despite writing countless applications.
"Then we had a couple who were forced to live in a tent because they could not find a landlord willing to offer them accommodation because they had a dog."
Mrs White said January and February tended to be crisis months.
"Over Christmas it's not too bad; it's after that when the bills come that we tend to see people."
Nineteen volunteers work at the Wadebridge Foodbank, which relies on donations from the public. It also stocks household goods to provide to the needy.
They also operate satellite drop-in foodbanks in Bodmin and Camelford.
People using it must first obtain vouchers from a range of organisations including social services, churches, schools and children's centres, and can then normally receive up to three days' worth of emergency food parcels.
Mrs White said residents in the area had always been very generous with donations.
"We have collection boxes at Co-op and at Tesco in Wadebridge and Padstow and we are extremely grateful to everyone who donates. It is because of them that we are able to help people in need," said Mrs White.
Wadebridge Foodbank can be called on 01208 815374.