FAMILIES crippled by debt and living below the poverty line are set to be given a helping hand with plans for a new food bank in St Neots.

The scheme, which is set to start in October, is being set up by a group of 10 churches with the help of the Trussell Trust, which already helps with more than 325 food banks in the UK.

It will serve some of the area's most vulnerable people, providing them with parcels of non-perishable food donated by members of the public and local businesses.

People will be recommended to the scheme for help by such groups as social services, schools and housing associations.

Christine Green, a trustee for the planned St Neots food bank representing St Mary's Parish Church, said: "People are very ashamed to ask for help, even when they are desperate and more and more people are finding themselves in crisis with the latest benefit and tax changes.

"At the moment there will be people in St Neots scrounging and begging for food because they don't want to ask for help and they don't have anywhere to go."

The idea for a food bank in the town developed after Eaton Socon Parish Church ran a small scale bank to help people within its parish. Since then an action group has been set up and a meeting was held for trustees, volunteers and members of the public on Monday (July 15) at St Neots Evangelical Church on Cambridge Street.

Peter Lang, food bank trustee for Eaton Socon Parish Church, said: "We started a food bank in April and we were distributing three or four parcels a week just to causes that the vicar heard about through local schools and other sources.

"But this is just the tip of the iceberg. We know that from other parts of the country where there are similar levels of deprivation to areas of St Neots - there are a lot of people on the edge.

"It only takes a crisis and the family are on the bread line."

The food bank has received backing from Waitrose and Tesco in St Neots and Asda in Biggleswade with the supermarkets encouraging customers to make donations.

Food banks already exist in Huntingdon and Godmanchester where there have been an increase in those needing help since changes to the benefits system have taken hold.

Life After Debt (LAD), a charity that works with those struggling to make ends meet in both Huntingdon and St Neots, has even begun referring some of its clients to food banks.

Ann Fryer, chairman of LAD, said: "We have clients who come in and can't afford a week's shopping. In these cases food banks can be really helpful as we can refer them and it can make a huge difference."

INFORMATION: The next meeting of the organisers of the St Neots food bank will be held on Tuesday, July 30, at 7.30pm at the New Street Baptist Church in New Street, St Neots. Members of the public and anyone who wishes to help are welcome.