Foodbank boss: 'Brexit poses immediate and severe risk to food supply'
Colchester Foodbank has moved into a bigger premises to help feed a growing number of people in crisis - and bosses are using the new space to prepare a "crisis response" for Brexit.
Marking their 10-year anniversary, staff at the foodbank cut the ribbon at their new, larger warehouse in Langham which they hope will help them meet an "ever-increasing" demand for their services.
How many people does the foodbank look after?
Since it first launched in 2009, foodbank users in Colchester have grown steadily each year - from a handful of clients in 2009/10 to nearly 7,000 in 2017/18.
Founder and chief officer Michael Beckett said the largest increase was 888 following the roll-out of Universal Credit - with one in three of those in crisis being children.
Colchester Foodbank is the busiest in Essex, and provides three-day packages of food to more than 500 people in crisis every month.
'Brexit poses an immediate and severe risk to food supply'
"We're preparing our crisis response to Brexit, as we feel this poses the most immediate and severe risks to the supply of food and supply of essentials," Mr Beckett added.
"But, there's a limit to how much we can prepare.
"We're seeing the highest levels of need we've ever had, and we are stretched."
MORE: How Suffolk is planning for a no-deal Brexit
Why have they moved into a new premises?
Harwich and north Essex MP Bernard Jenkin, the Bishop of Colchester the Right Reverend Roger Morris, and Colchester mayor Nick Cope joined people who had previously relied on the foodbank at the warehouse opening.
The warehouse building was donated to volunteers by local business Cardea Homes, a social housing company.
As the new premises is much bigger than the foodbank's previous facility, the additional space will allow the team to store and distribute more food to people relying on its services.
What have government officials said?
Previously, bosses at the Department for Work and Pensions said Universal Credit is working for most people.
They added: "The reasons why people use foodbanks are complex, so it's wrong to link a rise to any one cause."
Responding to fears about the impact of a no-deal Brexit on food supply, government officials said a significant amount of work and decision-making had gone into planning for a no-deal, particularly where it relates to ports and food supply.
To find out more about the work of Colchester Foodbank, visit their website.