FOUR tonnes of free food has helped kept hunger at bay for hundreds of Swansea families over Christmas.
Swansea Foodbank said it had experienced its busiest few weeks since opening two years ago to support the "hidden hungry".
The food handed out is the equivalent of 2,000 large loaves of bread, plus 2,000 regular-sized packs of pasta, 2,000 boxes of cereal and 400 bags of sugar.
Swansea Foodbank said it provided three days of nutritionally-balanced food on a voucher system, and that most people referred to the food bank were not homeless.
"They are families who may have hit hard times, been made redundant or are experiencing benefit delays — they are Swansea's hidden hungry," said a spokesman.
"The foodbank has seen an unprecedented increase over the quarter, with demand doubling when compared to last year. We have had fantastic support over the past few month from our supermarket collections, harvest festival and work donations, which helped us build our stocks ready for the seasonal increase.
"This has allowed us to distribute more than 4,000kg of food over the past three weeks and has meant that over 400 local people will not go hungry over the holiday period."
He added: "A huge thanks goes out to everyone who has donated throughout the year and to the team at Red Café, Mumbles, and Gorseinon for the extra hours spent packing food boxes, which has enabled us to meet every request we have received."
Support has also come from staff and volunteers working at the office of Swansea East MP Sian James, who asked people to donate five non-perishable food items. Office manager Carolyn Harris said the response from shops and residents had been incredible.
"We started off by talking to local convenience stores but the idea spread right across the constituency," she said.
"It's amazing how quickly people have picked up on the idea and how willing they are to help."
Among the supporters were computer giant Hewlett Packard and UNIT4 Business Software, based in Swansea Enterprise Park.
Mrs James praised the work by staff and volunteers.
"It's a terrible things that so many families have come to depend on food banks," said the Labour MP.
"We need to address this, but in the meantime we should recognise the magnificent support shown by the people of Swansea East."
Among those to benefit from the food parcels was Regan Harding, of Blaenymaes.
Her 12-year-old son has autism — and she sought the help of Mrs James after she claimed the authorities took away her Jobseeker's Allowance, which has since been reinstated.
Miss Harding said it was almost impossible to look for a job when she had been up with her son at night and had to care for him.
She said she was also applying to try to overturn a decision which rejected her Disability Living Allowance claim and that the food parcel had made a difference.
"I got pasta, tinned fruit and tinned veg," said the 35-year-old, of Pittsburgh Court. "I was grateful for that. I had no money coming in."
She said Mrs James also helped with her energy supply issues, which used to be via a card and token.
Miss Harding, whose two-bed house is funded by housing benefit, said Christmas would have bleak without this support.
"Me and my son would not have eaten," she said. "I had nowhere else to go."