Fourteen welfare organisations, responding to the rising demand on food banks, will distribute 7.5 tonnes of rice to the needy in a joint initiative this week. Some 260 packs of rice will be distributed to group members by Saturday. They include the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals, the Society for Community Organisation, the Confederation of Trade Unions, concern groups and homes for the elderly. The organiser of the rice handout, Jambu Buddhism Centre, yesterday said it was in response to the overwhelming demand at food banks. Private donations funded the initiative, while Culturecom Holdings co-organised the campaign. 'We would like to help relieve the problem of lack of food and remind those in poverty that they are not alone,' Jambu chief executive Noel Sung Sik-yin said. Fund-raising officer Lam Ying-hing of the Confederation of Trade Unions said it would distribute 120 packs of rice from its four centres. Mariana Wong Man-fong, district controller of the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals Wong Cho Tong Social Service Building, expected demand at food banks to increase in the next six months. 'People don't run out of money as soon as they are unemployed.' Last month, 4,400 people applied for short-term food assistance, Social Welfare Department figures show. Apart from the government-subsidised scheme, St James' Settlement provided food assistance to 1,074 people last month, nearly double the number in February, said Connie Ng Man-yin, centre supervisor of the group's People's Food Bank.