THE number of people seeking the help of Hereford's community larder has risen sharply this year.

And Alison Russell, the administrator of Hereford Food Bank (HFB), said the bank is in "urgent need" of certain supplies in order to cope with the amount of people requesting food parcels.

Since January, 470 referrals have been made to the food bank, which compares with the 176 referrals made during the same time last year.

Of the 470 referrals, 136 were for repeat service users.

"I think the rise is due to a number of factors. More people probably know about us now but also I think we are seeing the welfare reforms beginning to bite," Alison said.

"People are starting to feel the effects of the bedroom tax and we are seeing the demographic of food bank users start to change - more homeowners are using our service. We have been so busy, I think it shows that the problems people are facing just aren't going away.

"We help people whose benefits have been stopped for various reasons and can't afford to eat. This year we've helped people who had their benefits stopped because they couldn't make their job centre appointments due to the flooding."

Alison said the food bank is desperately in need of hot meat such as tins of stew, cold meat and bags of rice.

"We are working closely with other agencies to provide people with information about other help available, which is so important," she added.

"We don't want to be just where people go at the end of the line."

Food banks around the county have also seen a rise in the number of people turning to them for help.

David Kirkham, the secretary of Ledbury Food Bank, said he had noticed "a distinct increase in the number of clients served this year".

The HFB started four years ago and was initially operating out of a portable building in the Bishop’s Palace.

Since then it has moved into bigger premises in Aubrey Street.

People can leave items at the Hereford Times office on Holmer Road, at Hereford Cathedral and All Saints’ Church.