CARE homes in the New Forest have launched a campaign to help food banks battling to cope with soaring demand.

Colten Care is urging people to deliver non-perishable food to its homes in the area as well as its head office in Wellworthy Way, Ringwood.

The donations will be distributed to food banks struggling to meet a surge in demand from families facing financial hardship and food poverty.

Mark Aitchison, Colten Care’s chief executive, said: “One consequence of Covid-19 and lockdowns has been that many food banks have seen a drop in donations while need has increased.

“We have therefore decided that in the run-up to Christmas our homes will be helping to collect donations on behalf of their local food banks.

“People can come with food items and put them in a collection box near our reception or front door. We will take them to the local food bank, who will include them in the parcels they provide to their clients."

As well as providing collection boxes Colten Care is donating food directly and inviting its regular suppliers to do the same.

Oliver Stanley, chairman of the Lymington-based New Forest Basics Bank, said: “We are bowled over and very grateful to Colten Care for their support.

“They are such a well-known and respected name in and around Lymington and we’re thrilled they have joined forces with us.

“We have a continual need to source food. We’re currently working with around 100 families a week, providing them with enough food to see them through.

“Food banks in the Forest and elsewhere are seeing a surge in demand due to the impact of lockdown restrictions, rising unemployment and household financial crises.”

The Trussell Trust, another of the food bank networks supported by Colten Care, recently released a report about the impact of coronavirus on the use of food banks nationally.

It showed families with children had been hardest hit by food poverty since the start of the pandemic.

The Trust forecasts a 61% increase in demand this winter, with six emergency parcels needing to be given out every minute across the UK.

Items sought by food banks include tinned fruit, tinned meat, cereal, soup, pasta, washing-up liquid, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrushes and pet food.

Donations must be in-date and non-perishable.