A sudden increase in the number of struggling Dartford residents using foodbanks is being blamed on bedroom tax and benefit changes.

The Haven Family Storehouse, launched by Gateway Vineyard Dartford with the support of Dartford Churches, has seen an increase of nearly 40 people using the foodbank since this time last year.

Last month, a total of 438 residents benefitted from the Storehouse which opens on Tuesdays 10am to noon and Thursdays from 3pm to 5pm at the Gateway Vineyard in Market Street. 

Meanwhile, a similar foodbank in Northfleet run by international charity, The Trussell Trust, has seen a tenfold increase in visitors since launching in 2012.

News Shopper:

Staff at this centre - based at RCCG Lifestart Connections in St Clements Close - believe the dramatic rise is partly due to the government's introduction of bedroom tax in April last year.

Project manager David Idowu said: "We were established in autumn 2012.

"Back then we would have about 10 people a week come in for help. Now we can have up to 100 people.

"The increase in figures is mainly a result of benefits delays and changes.

"People find they now have to pay bedroom tax which is a cost they can’t afford as well as feeding themselves."

Hub manager Claire Noordally added: "From April 2013 to March 2014 we helped up to 3,000 people.

News Shopper:

"This is quite a large increase on the previous year when we fed 650 people. We’ve become well known in the community so the increase in figures doesn’t come as a surprise."

"Clients are referred to us by the social services, The Red Cross, the NHS and a couple more establishments.

"We give the food out in good faith that the reputable referee has done the investigating they needed to do to make a good judgement about whether a client needs help."

Dartford MP Gareth Johnson said: "It seems a real pity that some now use foodbanks as a political football when in my experience they are provided by kind hearted individuals with no other motive than to help people."