Figures released by Urban Outreach regarding their foodbank and food pantries reveal that debt is one of the main reasons people are driven to use a foodbank.

From January to December 2019 there were 4390 visits to food pantries, which are run on a membership basis and allow people to select their own food, and 3240 vouchers issued for foodbanks, where people are referred and receive a food parcel.

Debt was the reason behind 3827 of these visits and vouchers, whereas benefit delay was the cause of 1124.

Dave Bagley, the chief executive of Urban Outreach, did stress that there are often several factors which contribute to someone’s use of a foodbank or pantry, such as fleeing domestic abuse, highlighting just how complex poverty is.

He said: “Debt is by far the most serious issues faced by people.

“Debt means that people can be working and not having enough money to make ends meet.

“We have not seen a decreased in the number of people accessing the foodbank. We can’t really say why other than debt is still a major issue.

“There’s something more sinister that is probably driving this, there’s loan sharks, and gambling.

“People are trying to get out of the situation they’re in by taking out loans and buying lottery tickets, but it’s making things worse.

“Welfare reforms have actually stabilised, I think we have certainly got more worrying issues, with debt being the greatest.”

Access to foodbanks and pantries is strictly enforced. Everyone is referred by external groups which ensures that people receive the support they need.

Mr Bagley said: “We have not created a dependant culture. We do not just give vouchers or membership for free.

“On the other side of this is the magnificent response from the people, it’s phenomenal, it shows a resilience of humanity.”

Bolton Lads and Girls Club (BLGC) runs a foodbank for those who access their services, which includes families and young people living on their own.

Sarah Randall, head of targeted youth services at BLGC, said: “We get more and more families asking for our foodbank. The need is greater and obviously working people are being impacted as well.

“We will give the food to the families or people living on their own who are struggling to make ends meet,

“We also have things like toiletries, tooth paste and cleaning products. When we work with young people who are looking to get into employment and get jobs, these are the things we need.”