The food bank in Valletta has had to turn away clients for the first time ever, as its shelves ran dry while the number of people knocking on the door tripled.

Run by the St Andrews’ Scots Church, the food bank, at Old Bakery Street, Valletta, last week provided food for 66 families, while on Tuesday alone, it gave out food packs to 30 more clients.

People started queueing on the doorstep at 8.30am, 90 minutes ahead of its scheduled opening time. Despite the staff having spent over €1,200 on food last week, the shelves were almost empty by the end of the day.

When contacted, food bank administrator Reverend Kim Hurst noted that if it were not for a generous donation left by someone in their will, the facility would have had to close.

The food bank survives on the generosity of food suppliers, the church congregation and charity from other individuals, including a Maltese person living abroad who sends a monthly donation.

The food bank provides food for a few weeks for families temporarily facing a crisis, including people who have their benefits halted when admitted to hospital.

More and more of our clients are working, but they still struggle to make ends meet

Once discharged, it takes about six weeks for the benefits to start again, and this is where the food bank steps in. Most clients are Maltese and are referred to the food bank by social workers and priests, among others.

Earlier this year the food bank risked closure, but people soon chipped in following an appeal made in this newspaper.

However, within three months, the demand increased by 50 per cent, and donations were scarce over the summer. Meanwhile, the numbers continued to soar.

Between January and June of this year, the food bank supported 931 families, up from 383 in the first six months of 2016.

The bank opens three times in the morning and once in the evening, and Rev Hurst noted that Thursday evening and Saturday morning were the busiest periods, as some clients worked. The food bank only started opening its doors on Saturday morning for this reason.

“More of our clients are working, but they still struggle to make ends meet. Rent remains the main issue,” Rev Hurst noted.

The food bank needs urgent help. In addition to the food it receives from suppliers, the food bank is spending around €1,000 a week, while the donations it received last week totalled €250.

“It’s only a matter of time until we will have to be stricter and either decrease the amount of food we hand out or the number of families we help,” said Rev Hurst. “We don’t want to do that or reach a situation where a family doesn’t have food to eat.”

To help out go to http://thefoodbank.webs.com/