Food banks and food clubs in the North West have received a massive boost after receiving thousands of pounds from pub operator Joseph Holt.

The 173-year-old family business collected a grand total of £129,719.16 from big hearted customers as part of its annual charity appeal.

Part of the money was collected at the pub group’s Lancashire branches in Belmont, Chorley, Lytham St Annes, Blackpool, Fleetwood and Ormskirk.

This money has now been distributed to six different charities devoted to helping people struggling to pay their food bills.

Thanks to fundraising events organised by dedicated staff as well as donations collected across its 127 pubs, the iconic Manchester-based brewery, which has been in the same family for six generations, was able to donate nearly £22,000 to each recipient: Lucies Pantry in Salford, Greater Manchester-based Mustard Tree, both Stockport and Atherton & Leigh Food Banks, Compassion Acts in Southport and Bury-based Porch Boxes.

Each charity has reported a massive growth in the number of people relying on food banks – not least because of the crippling rise in the cost of living.

Lancashire Telegraph: Representatives of six charities together with staff from Joseph Holt at recent presentation evening at The Woodthorpe pub in Prestwich.Representatives of six charities together with staff from Joseph Holt at recent presentation evening at The Woodthorpe pub in Prestwich.

Nigel Tedford, general manager of Stockport Foodbanks said: “Around 45 per cent of people coming to our food banks are doing so for the first time.

“Meanwhile at this time of year – unlike, say Christmas or Easter – we can get a big drop in donations. 

"The money from Joseph Holt will buy us much need security in the months ahead.”

Arianne Clarke of Compassion Acts, said the Southport charity had helped 400 people in June – twice the number for the same month last year.

And Julia Rowlands, chair of Porch Boxes, said the donation would equate to 12 months of food parcels given out across the Bury borough.

She said: “We're grateful for any donations we receive but often we get, if you like, carbohydrate staples such as beans, pasta and rice.

"When what we also need are foods that cook quickly, in a pan and don't use a lot of electricity – such as tinned meatballs or hot dogs.

"This donation will allow us to buy more of these ambient foods and give us security for the  foreseeable future to get what our clients need.”

David Hughes, trustee of Atherton and Lee foodbanks said the money was an answer to their 'prayer for more support'.

He said: “We urgently needed money to help pay for the running of our warehouse, which costs, even at a reduced rate, around £10 000."

While Jackie Smith from Lucie's Pantry said the Joseph Holt  donation had provided some much needed `breathing space`.

She said: “There is constant anxiety that the money will run out and we hope that people will donate to us.

"We're all beginning to feel the enormity of what is happening and we need to know we are secure for at least the next 18 months ahead.”

According to Richard Kershaw, chief executive of Joseph Holt and great-great grandson of the brewery's eponymous founder, the company chose North West food banks and clubs for its 2020/21 charity appeal in order to help people in the very heart of the communities where the pubs operate.

He said: “As we all know, 2020 and 2021 were especially tough years for many people.

"And so for the first time in our history, we decided to fundraise for six charities located in our heartlands across the North West.

"We had fantastic support from all our customers, employees and licensees who helped us fulfil our strong desire across the company to put something back into the local community."

Indeed, Joseph Holt is the only brewery to win the special ‘Heart of the Community’ award three times in a row. This is awarded b  the British Beer and Pub Association  for charity and community work.

The donations have certainly come at a critical time.

Last year local charities and organisations warned that foodbank usage in the North West could “spiral out of control”.

Foodbank charity The Trussell Trust said in 2021 it gave out more food parcels within the North West than anywhere else in the UK.

A recent survey from the Independent Food Aid Network found that 93 per cent of independent food banks in the UK reported an increase or significant increase in services from the start of 2022.

A further 80 per cent of organisations also reported that they have struggled with food supply issues in the past four months and 78 per cent noticed a drop in food and financial donations.

Beckie Walker of Manchester-based Mustard Tree added: “The other day our Ancoats  branch recorded its busiest day.

"Considering the drop in universal credit and the cost of living crisis, it's little wonder that one in four children in our area live in relative poverty.

"Our mission to help has never been greater. And thanks to Joseph Holt we can carry on buying food every day for those who need.”