THE couple who run Okehampton Foodbank have had a busy year, which has seen them hand out — in most cases deliver — a staggering 1,000 food parcels since the first lockdown in March.

This represents a three-fold increase on demand in 2019, said Paul Jarrett who runs this vital lifeline with his wife Isobel from a room at the Baptist Church in the town. Such has been the generosity of people in the area, though, the foodbank is still well supplied with food.

An epic collection of food from households in Okehampton and surrounding villages by the Okehampton Round Table in April was so successful it filled the church hall. Since then, the donations have kept coming.

And the food has certainly been needed, said Paul, as people saw their work disappear or hours cut.

‘For the whole of last year we did about 350 food parcels and we’ve done 1,000 since the first lockdown in March, which is a huge number.

‘We have quite a large number of referral agencies who refer people to us, the Covid-19 Support Group is one of those.

‘It is just amazing how it has mushroomed, and thanks to the generosity of people we still have food on the shelves, which is superb.’

He said they had noticed a small increase in demand since the start of the second lockdown. While they had been on hand to help provide food for families eligible for free school meals during half term — before the Government U-turn — in the event the Dartmoor Multi Academy Trust, which runs schools in the area, stepped into provide vouchers families affected.

‘That greatly reduced the demand that we could have had over half term, so we are grateful,’ he added.

‘We are aware that there will be one or two who might have slipped through the system, who don’t qualify for free school meals, so we are working with the schools and college in the town. If they are aware of anyone who needs help but doesn’t quite fit the category, they will let us know.’

‘We are now planning for Christmas,’ he added. ‘We are putting together Christmas bags for those who have not found any Government funding to help them through this time.

‘We know we will be donated lots of Christmas goodies which can be dropped off at the collection points at Waitrose and the Co-op in Okehampton.’