The shelves in the Stratford Community Foodbank are fairly empty at the moment, a sign of how needed the service has been this year.

In October alone, the volunteers at the foodbank gave out 34 food parcels to Stratford residents in need.

Dianne Roberts, chairperson of the Stratford Community Foodbank, says the numbers for October are down on previous years, which she thinks is due to the Winter Energy Payments people have received.

"It has certainly freed up money for some people. Unfortunately, October was the last month of those payments, so it is likely the numbers of people requesting assistance from us will increase again over the next few months."

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With Christmas now just a few weeks away, the volunteers expect to be giving out even more, as families and individuals struggle to pay the bills and feed their families.

"Our annual letterbox appeal will hopefully help us fill our shelves in readiness for helping people over the next few months," says Dianne.

The annual appeal will take place on Monday, December 2 this year, and the volunteers at Stratford Community Foodbank are appealing for everyone to mark the date in their diaries and remember to put a can or two in their letterboxes that day.

"John Perrett has done a great job already this year organising the collection evening, and we really appreciate his efforts in getting this so well organised."

He says the team at First national Mills & Gibbon have come on board this year, providing four lead cars to drive around the town on the evening.

As always, the fire brigade will sound the sirens and lead the way, and then four teams of collectors will walk along each street, checking mailboxes for the donated items.

"The four teams are volunteers from the Stratford Scout group, Stratford Cricket Club, Rotary Satellite Group and First National Mills & Gibbon."

Dianne says all donations are gratefully received. Canned food is great as it has a long shelf life and can be the base of many meals while also not having the specific storage needs dairy and meat products do.

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The Foodbank is open on Tuesday mornings, 10am - noon throughout the year, with some date changes over the Christmas period.

In December, the foodbank dates will be 10am - noon on Tuesday, December 3, 10 and 17, and then Monday, December 23 10am - noon. It will then reopen on Tuesday, January 7, 10am - noon.

If people are in need when the foodbank is closed, call on 021 0241 7741.