THE number of people seeking help from local foodbanks has risen sharply in recent weeks.
According to Pastor Graham McElhinney, of the Reach foodbank at Life Triumphant Church, Omagh, sharp increases in the price of fuel and food have corresponded with large increases in users, with 17 new individuals coming forward requesting help from the service last month.
Worryingly, many who are seeking help are from families who have both parents working, which Pastor McElhinney says points to a growing prevalence of "working poor" who are finding it difficult to get by amid the current cost of living crisis.
"At the foodbank we are seeing more and more families that we have never seen before coming requesting help," he said. "Last month, in the space of a few days, we saw 17 new families coming to us, with many of them at breaking point.
"These are families that have both parents working, who have filled their cars to get to work, and oil tanks just to have heat, but find themselves with nothing left over to see them to the end of the month.
"People are shocked that despite working full time, they have nothing left over and are finding it hard to make ends meet while paying rent, mortgages, and other bills. We are seeing more and more 'working poor' who are being seriously squeezed financially, with savings all but depleted and little to nothing to fall back on.
"The reality is, the cost of everything has skyrocketed and wages haven't kept pace. There's only so much people can cut back on, and regardless of how expensive fuel is, if you are commuting for work you have to pay for it or you will be out of a job.
"The same goes for oil, even though we are coming into milder weather, people still want to and need to heat their homes.
"It's no surprise that we are seeing more and more people using foodbanks. At the end of the day, the service is there for those in need, and unfortunately we are seeing more and more people in need every month at present."