A Croydon food bank is buckling under the pressure of increased demand and could be forced to close, its founder has warned – removing a lifeline for hundreds of struggling families in the borough.

Fatima Koroma said a guaranteed source of funding was the only way to ensure the survival of the Croydon Food Store, after the number of referrals to the service doubled since its opening in 2012.

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She said: “To satisfactorily maintain this while looking for other forms of funding, we need a minimum of £20,000 a year.

“Some of us get up at 6am to be at the supermarkets first thing. These are sometimes people with children. It’s a continuous chase for food.”

The food bank, which operates out of a store cupboard in Ramsey Court, currently relies on volunteers and donations to provide emergency three-day rations for those who are referred.

Government policies such as the welfare cap and benefit sanctions were to blame for the increased demand, Ms Koroma claimed, with up to 90 families a week now being referred to her.

She believed further cuts scheduled for next April would only make the situation worse.

Croydon Guardian:

Fatima Koroma, centre, with fellow food bank volunteers Trevor Burgess and Claire Lewis

She said: “We’re not getting any help. The numbers are getting higher, and they are just going to get even higher.

“Some clients we will see twice a week because of benefit sanctions. If they have kids, we can’t say no.

“When I first started this, there was only me. Now there are more than five food banks in Croydon.”

Figures released by the Trussell Trust show that more than 1m people accessed its food banks alone in 2014-2015 – compared to 61,468 in 2010-2011.

A spokesman for the Department of Work and Pensions said there was “no strong evidence that the use of food banks is linked to welfare reform”.

Ms Koroma, a mother-of-three who volunteers at the food bank full time, said guaranteed funding was now needed to ensure the survival of the service.

She said: “We could pay wages and allow people to be a bit more permanent. We have got telephone bills, but at the moment our phone isn’t even on.

“If the numbers increase and we can’t maintain our service we will have to minimise it, so for example the four day service might go down to two days.

“If we do that and it’s still a struggle, I wouldn’t want to be doing it.”

A Croydon Council spokesman said: “The council supports the invaluable work of our voluntary partners on food banks by providing several of them with rent-free accommodation and we have awarded more than £11,000 to network members through our active communities fund.

“We also give support to thousands of vulnerable families across the borough such as help with managing their finances.”