FOOD banks are bracing themselves for the summer holidays when schools shut and children entitled to free meals go hungry.

They have reported an increase in referrals from schools in recent months.

This comes as 200,000 more children in the north of England are living in poverty than five years ago, a report by IPPR North revealed yesterday.

Farnworth food bank The Well is catering for more families now, according staff and volunteers.

Food bank admin manager Soo O'Neill said the summer holidays puts more strain on families, but she has already noticed a difference during term-time.

She said: “Mums are saying they just want to feed their kids. They are not concerned about themselves. We’ll offer them tea or coffee and they’ll say, ‘I just want cordial’ for the kids. I just want to make sure my kids are okay.’”

Last year, The Well, which is located at Farnworth Baptist Church, provided food more than 1,500 children.

Bolton Council spent £38,075 on food parcels during that period and an additional £35,167 on gas and electricity top-ups.

Cabinet member Susan Baines said that the new Conservative administration is "committed to caring" and will support residents in the town.

She said: "We need to create a culture of self worth, self respect and wellbeing. Not simply continued dependency on food handouts. So enabling all residents to reach their maximum potential in society."

The health and wellbeing executive made the comments in response to her Labour counterpart, Cllr Sue Haworth.

She told the chamber that people are avoiding Weetabix because it "takes up too much milk".

But Bernie Lomax, a volunteer at The Well, said that people who use food banks want to get out as quick as possible.

She said: “Generally, people don’t look in the bags because you have to appreciate how they feel when they come in here.”

Ms O'Neill added: "When people come here, they are embarrassed and ashamed."