ALMOST 5,000 hungry people were fed in Barnsley in the last year according to shock new figures revealed by a local foodbank - with a quarter of those being handed vital supplies during lockdown.

Barnsley Foodbank Partnership revealed that the number of residents needing items from the group increased substantially during the coronavirus outbreak, with 1,260 of the 4,800 accounting for the last three months alone.

Suzanne Storey, manager at the foodbank, has been ‘overwhelmed’ with the support of the volunteers who have helped them keep up with demand in times of need.

“This increase in numbers during the pandemic is down to people being put on furlough, loss of jobs and families struggling without school. It’s been a tough time for people,” she told the Chronicle.

“We target the people who are in financial hardship so to be able to feed this amount of people is what we aim to do.

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“We cannot run without our volunteers. They truly are the heart and soul of this and their hard work has made this number possible.

“We’ve had new volunteers stepping in and helping us deal with the demand. It’s an ever-evolving picture day-to-day.

“It just shows how our local community to pull together at this time. I can’t thank them enough for sparing their time with us.”

The foodbank is still in need of some essential items, and has launched an appeal to help encourage donations should the demand continue.

“There’s still some items that we’re in short supply of at the moment,” Suzanne added.

“These include tinned potatoes, packet mashed potatoes, gravy granules, rice puddings and fruit juices.

“Especially in this warm weather when having juices are incredibly important.

“It would be fantastic if people would be able to donate these to us, as we are in very short supply.”

The Trussell Trust, which controls several foodbanks across the town, cited the rollout of the Universal Credit scheme - which was intended to simplify what was thought to be a complicated benefits system - as a reason for the stats in Barnsley.

First-time claimants were made to wait five weeks before receiving a payment and the new system is said to be increasingly driving referrals due to benefit delays, which include waiting for a first payment or having problems with a new claim.

Recently-revealed figures show more than 25,000 people in the town are now in receipt of benefits.

Barnsley East MP Stephanie Peacock said: “More and more people are forced to look to foodbanks to put food on their table.

“The rise in foodbank use is an utter disgrace and that thousands of families and children across Barnsley are unable to afford food tells you everything you need to know about the Tories’ thoughts on communities like ours.

“The experts and food bank providers have spoken up: the blame for increasing use lays squarely at the feet of this government. It’s time they got a grip.”

* To donate any items to the Barnsley Foodbank Partnership, bring them to Unit 14, Aldham Industrial Estate, Wombwell.