The number of families needing help from Devizes Food Bank has almost doubled in a year.

The annual general meeting of Devizes Food Bank heard that in the year ending in March the number of family food boxes given out increased by 91 per cent and single emergency food boxes by 62 per cent, compared to the previous year.

The boxes supported 1,447 adults and 917 children – the highest number in the five years of Devizes Food Bank – and the value of the food given out in the past year was almost £53,000.

The Food Bank covers Devizes, Marlborough, Pewsey and surrounding villages.

Devizes Food Bank chairman Peter Brearley said: “Food banks have seen growth of an average of 51 per cent. We have had a huge increase in the number of people we are supporting and it begs the question why?”

He said the three main reasons were benefit delays (29 per cent), low income (25 per cent) and benefit cuts (22 per cent).

A food box lasts three days and recipients are referred by a variety of agencies and can only return three times.

Mr Brearley said: “We are meeting people’s needs who are in crisis.

“The people who come to us are not spongers. They are tremendously courageous; they have to admit that they have failed to feed their family.”

The meeting at Devizes town hall last Thursday was attended by about 60 people.

Guest speaker was Devizes MP Claire Perry, who said the rate of benefits had gone up by 5.2 per cent since 2010/11, pensions had risen and 92 per cent of benefits were paid on time, up by six per cent since the 2010 general election.

She said the average wage in her constituency was £24,000, below the national average, and thought the increase in use of the food bank was due to a rise in the cost of living and better awareness of food banks.

She said: “I’m really glad food banks exist. There will always be families in crisis.”

The food bank’s income for last year was just over £14,000 and expenditure was £8,802. The surplus of £5,285 means that the charity now has £12,235 in its coffers.

Mr Brearley said the trustees were considering buying a car and looking at whether they could do other work such as debt counselling.

Gaiger Brothers provides rent free accommodation to the charity and DS Smith Packaging supplies boxes free of charge. Regular food collections take place at local supermarkets.