Churches are appealing for donations to foodbanks at their Harvest festivals this year.

Packets of mashed potato, instant noodles, tinned fish and long life milk are among the items they are asking people to donate at the traditional Harvest services of thanksgiving.

The donations will be packaged up and distributed by volunteers at church-run foodbanks into emergency food aid for those in most need.

Kathy Sharp, a volunteer at the Pontypridd Foodbank at St Luke’s Church, Rhydyfelin, said an increasing number of people being referred to the foodbank for parcels meant more donations were urgently needed.

Kathy, who is also a sub-warden at St Luke’s, said, “This year, we’re devoting our Harvest appeal at St Luke’s to the foodbank and inviting others to do the same.

“Donations of tinned and packed food are always welcome but we particularly need long life fruit juice and milk, tinned fruit, meat and fish, sugar and instant food, such as noodles, for those without cooking facilities.”

The Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, praised the work of the Pontypridd Foodbank on a visit this week.

He said, “Harvest is a time when we give thanks for our food and traditionally people bring food to services in churches and schools for distribution to those in need. Sadly, today that need is seen very starkly in the rise of foodbanks.

“I am so glad, however, that churches are at the forefront of supplying emergency parcels to those who otherwise would be going hungry.

“Churches are focal points for the community and people are keen to put their faith into action by working with the Trussell Trust and local authorities to help those most in need. The volunteers at St Luke’s have got their foodbank down to a fine art – I have been most impressed at how well run and organised the food collection, storage and distribution is.”

The foodbank at St Luke’s Church was set up four years ago and is now open every weekday. Run by a team of 40 volunteers, it operates by receiving donations of non-perishable food from schools, churches, businesses and individuals, while supermarket collections are held twice a year.

Those in need are then identified by care professionals who issue vouchers, redeemable at the food bank centre, for three days worth of emergency food.

The church had to have an efficient storage place for its collected food, so volunteers built a pantry from wood recycled from its pews which were replaced with chairs.

Kathy Sharp, a semi-retired local government officer, was one of those who set the foodbank up and she has been a volunteer ever since, helping out twice a week.

She said many of those coming for food parcels also find peace in the church, “I have always been keen to help people in the community and have been pleased to have been able to help set up this foodbank. It is very sad that there is such a need for foodbanks today and that we are so busy. But it is nice to see the effect this church building has on the people who come here. They discover that the church is open for them - that they don’t have to come on a Sunday in their best suit and hat. Many will have never set foot in a church before and when they come in they find peace here – some like to sit quietly at the back for a while, others will light a candle.

“We have also been overwhelmed by the support and generosity of our congregation, many of whom are elderly. We are a Fair Trade church, for example, and many of our members have set up a regular order of Fair Trade goods for the foodbank. They also organise fund raising events for it and our Harvest collection will go to it. Sometimes we have tins and packets delivered at the back of the church but no one ever complains about the clutter.

“We have a great team of volunteers who come from all sorts of backgrounds – other churches in the area, students from the university, people who have a few spare free hours a week. People are so willing to help and I’m sure we’ll have a good response to our Harvest appeal.”