HUNGRY residents who have turned to foodbanks for help since the pandemic took hold in March trebled in numbers during 2020, shock figures have revealed.

Barnsley East MP Stephanie Peacock is urging residents to support local foodbanks if they are able to do so, after they faced their busiest time of the year over the Christmas holiday.

Stephanie said: “This year has been incredibly difficult for our community and sadly foodbanks have seen their demand treble during this pandemic.

“I want to pass on my thanks for everything foodbank staff and volunteers have done to support local residents over the last few months.

“I know they are always grateful for donations, and I would urge you to support them if you are able to do so - information about drop-off points and items they particularly need.”

Barnsley Council bosses launched a winter grant scheme using almost £1m of funding provided by the government, boosted by a further £300,000 of the local authority’s cash, to help families over Christmas and in the upcoming February half-term break.

The scheme supports vulnerable households across the borough, focusing on households with children who are eligible for free school meals, including those in pre-school.

Families can apply for a £15 voucher for each child, while a one-off payment of £80 will be given to put towards fuel and energy costs for 6,500 Barnsley households.

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Council leader Sir Steve Houghton told the Chronicle: “The pandemic has hit families in our borough hard and caused a lot of financial hardship in the past nine months - we know the worst-hit are the ones who were struggling long before the pandemic arrived in March.

“We welcome the government’s support, but we felt it was right to increase the amount available to our residents because we’re all in this together.”

It comes after latest figures up to December revealed more than 5,000 hungry people were fed by the Barnsley Foodbank Partnership in 2020 according to shock figures - including 2,000 kids - with a quarter of those being handed vital supplies during the two spells of lockdown.

A spokesperson said: “Everything has been so uncertain, but we are determined to continue working hard to help people in crisis.

“We continue to work day in, day out to provide food parcels and donations are what makes a huge difference. We need help more than ever to assist us in the busiest few months of our foodbank’s history.

“Every single donation, no matter how big or small, is making such a difference right now and we can’t thank Barnsley’s residents enough.”

A report, compiled by the council, said intelligence on food and financial-derived poverty locally was ‘limited’ and more needed to be done to address the growing issue.

It added: “We are aware of the prevalence and impact of poverty, which merits specific further investigation.

“Significant work is and has been undertaken, however there remains system-wide challenges across the council, education, health and care services to enable clear pathways out of poverty in order to improve the circumstances, life experience and outcomes of families and children.

“There are large health inequalities between Barnsley and England, and within Barnsley itself. Poverty and associated factors are recognised as wider determinants of health inequality, therefore working to tackle poverty contributes to tackling health inequalities.”