MORE than 750 people turned to emergency foodbanks in the region in the run-up to Christmas, as rising living costs continue to bite.

Now four more help-points are opening in the North-East and North Yorkshire - taking the total to ten - to ensure the poorest families can put a meal on the table.

Roberta Blackman-Woods, the Durham City MP, where the largest number of people was fed, said the expansion of foodbanks was clear evidence that "something is going wrong in the economy".

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And she added: "The foodbank in Durham is wonderful project and has fantastic volunteers.

"But I don't want to live in a society where this is necessary, where finances are so tight that more people have to turn to foodbanks to feed themselves and their families."

However, David Cameron has pointed to foodbanks as "part of what I call the Big Society" - and ministers have suggested the rise is explained by the issuing of foodbank vouchers to claimants facing benefit delays.

The Trussell Trust, the organisation behind Britain's biggest foodbank network, said it fed 747 across the North-East and North Yorkshire between December 10 and 25.

That included 361 at the bank in Salisbury Road, Durham City, with smaller numbers helped at Hartlepool (112), York (109), Middlesbrough (65), Gateshead (57) and Newcastle East (43).

The Trussell Trust is now opening a further four banks in the region, in Redcar, Sunderland, Harrogate and a second in Newcastle, in the west end.

Across Britain, the number has more than doubled in a single year - from 145 at the end of 2011, to around 300 - providing three days of non-perishable food, donated by the public.

To be eligible for a parcel, a person or family has to be considered in need by a charity or agency and given a voucher, which they present to the food bank.

The Trust is in no doubt that demand is soaring because of the rising costs of food and fuel, plus stubbornly-high unemployment and salaries that are falling in real terms.

More than 40 per cent of people helped have been referred to food banks because their benefits have been stopped - under tougher rules - or a crisis loan has been refused.

Less than five per cent are homeless. Many are working families, hit by sudden redundancy, a cut in working hours or an unexpected bill.

Adrian Curtis, the Trussell Trust's foodbank network manager, said: "People from all sorts of walks of life have been finding themselves in short-term crisis.

"Although, on one level, I get excited to see the network growing - because I see more and more communities prepared to help - I also understand why the volume of people we are now supporting is shocking to people."