A FOOD bank in Southend town centre is so overwhelmed with demand for free food parcels it is now opening twice a day.

The Storehouse community centre, between the four tower blocks in Coleman Street, hands out more than 500 food parcels a week to people in need in the community

The demand is rising with an additional 25 families each week seeking help.

The centre will now open at 11:30am, and again at 1pm every week day, in order to meet the rising demand for services.

John Williams, service manager at the Storehouse in Southend, said: “We are doing it to cope with the demand. We can’t create more space for people because of the limited size of the building, so instead we are changing the way that we use the space that we have.

“We are seeing 25 new people a week turning up, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but over time it is an enormous amount of extra people.”

People start queuing at the centre for nappies, baby formula, tinned food and fresh fruit and vegetables an hour before the centre opens, and by the time the doors open, it stretches around the block.

The economic slump, recession, lack of jobs and changes to benefits in October and April are being blamed for the increase in demand, as more and more people can no longer meet their living costs.

Mr Williams added: “We have seen a huge increase in demand since the changes to benefits came in, there are new stresses and strains out there. The effects of the recession are still out there, and the sanctions.”