A CHARITY which gives out food to poverty-stricken people in Darwen has seen a dramatic rise in the number of people needing to use its service.

The Food Larder was set up 17 years ago by Zillah Griffin, who saw a need in the town after retiring from her job as a health visitor in Blackburn.

The group, which started with five volunteers and now has 13, takes donations of food from churches.

Last year, the group gave food parcels to 87 people, but that has risen to 212 this year, and next year could be even worse, it is feared.

Mrs Griffin said: “I found there were problems with benefits books, particularly when there were changes to family circumstances.

“The books would be taken away and wouldn’t come back when expected, leaving families without money.

“One family had nothing for Christmas and there was nowhere open to help them, so I went and got food for them.

“Then I got the idea in my head that this might be something I could do when I was retired.”

For the past two years, the group has used a Nightsafe centre which houses young homeless people as its base.

This means they have a large kitchen to prepare meals and a good-sized storage area for the food.

The group has also been boosted by the arrival of Carolyn Newell, who started cooking full meals in September which are then put in trays and frozen.

Mrs Newell said: “I cook things like stews, curries and chillis, anything you can make a big pot of.

“It works better as a lot of the people using the service can’t cook.

“I will be doing about 50 Christmas dinners over the festive period as well.”

People can refer themselves or others to the Food Larder by calling 01254 705120, 24 hours a day.