THOUSANDS of Barnsley youngsters who will go without their ‘vital’ school meal due to the six-week summer holidays will be the prime targets of a campaign aimed at helping vulnerable children avoid hunger, the Chronicle can reveal.

Staff at Asda, on Old Mill Lane, are working alongside The Trussell Trust - which runs multiple foodbanks across the borough - as part of the ‘Fight Hunger Create Change’ programme.

Bosses behind the scheme say school holidays, which are now underway, traditionally result in a marked rise in foodbank referrals as kids lose access to their free school meals and some families struggle to cope with the subsequent financial impact.

Between April 2018 and March 2019, more than 8,000 emergency food parcels were handed out - representing an 18.8 per cent rise on the previous year’s figures - with 3,770 people being helped in the Barnsley East constituency alone, including 1,303 children.

A Trussell Trust report shows the picture is the same across the town, with about 3,000 children receiving parcels which contain three days’ supplies, and one in three classed as living in poverty.

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Barnsley shoppers will be able to donate much-needed supplies - which will go to Gateway Foodbank on Mottram Street - when they are doing their shopping at dedicated in-store collection points.

The foodbank distributes food to people across Barnsley and last year supported thousands of local people in crisis.

Tina Burke, who is the designated community colleague at Asda in Barnsley, told the Chronicle: “Our customers and colleagues are always very generous and we’re really pleased to be getting behind the campaign, which will make a difference on a very local level as well as on bigger scale across the country.

“We always have food collection points in store, but over the next few weeks we’re really trying to increase the level of donations as we go into the summer holidays, when sadly food bank referrals do tend to increase.”

Trussell Trust-run foodbanks are located in Goldthorpe, Wombwell, Athersley, Darfield, Penistone, Hoyland, Royston, Worsbrough Common and Barnsley town centre and are open six days a week.

End Child Poverty, a coalition of charities and organisations, say that it is becoming the ‘new normal’ in parts of Britain, and 32 per cent of children in Barnsley and Rotherham were living in poverty last year.

Barnsley East MP Stephanie Peacock told the Chronicle the continued dependency on foodbanks was a ‘national disgrace’ and blamed the government’s Universal Credit rollout for affecting in-need families.

Universal Credit, which was intended to simplify what was thought to be a complicated benefits system, includes a range of different payments made to those who qualify but it has been the subject of criticism after first-time claimants were made to wait five weeks before receiving a payment.

“Demand for emergency food parcels has grown every year under this Tory government, and once again the finger is pointed at their flagship Universal Credit policy as the cause of this increase in Barnsley,” she added.

“Growing dependency on foodbanks should shame us all, and this government need to act urgently to fix their disastrous policies that are causing increasing hardship for people struggling here in Barnsley.”