An invaluable new charity gave out 12 tonnes of food in just over a year and has big plans to expand because of a rising number of families going hungry due to delays in the benefits system.

Wimbledon Foodbank, opened in October 2011, has fed nearly 1,500 people in crisis providing a minimum of three days emergency food and support for those in need.

A 25kg food parcel is given out to families who receive a voucher from charities, the Citizens Advice Bureau, and family centres - with the greatest demand coming from Mitcham and Pollards Hill.

Reverend Marcus Bennett, a pastor at the Elim Pentecostal Church in High Path, Colliers Wood, founded the project, which is the Merton franchise of a national scheme run by Christian organisation the Trussell Trust.

Mr Bennett said: “It’s been unbelievable how popular the scheme has been and I think we’re getting to the next level now.

“We are looking at setting up a satellite branch in Rose Hill or Mitcham, but we need a church with a building and volunteers ready to help.

“Between a third and half of the people who come to us are having problems with their benefits being processed, so we’re very nervous about the Government’s universal credit scheme coming in next year.

“Whatever the rights or wrongs of the policy, it is the bureaucratic chaos that really concerns us.”

Last week the scheme was visited by Merton Council’s leader, Councillor Stephen Alambritis.

He said: "At this festive time of year we should think about those less fortunate than ourselves.

It's great to go down to Wimbledon Foodbank and see local people, including children, volunteering their time.

“You can volunteer at the foodbank at anytime of the year and you can also donate food directly.

“I commend those at Wimbledon Foodbank for giving up their time to do something truly worthwhile for their community."

Donations can be received by the church on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays between 9am to 5pm and can include non-perishable food, toiletries or items for children and babies.