HUNGRY families struggling to make ends meet are relying on Barnsley’s foodbanks in record-breaking numbers - after a charity revealed a 60 per cent increase in calls for help since the pandemic’s start.
The Trussell Trust, a charity tackling poverty in the UK, supports the country’s largest network of foodbanks - including ones across the borough under Fareshare and Barnsley Foodbank Partnership banners.
Over the course of the coronavirus pandemic, they have seen a dramatic increase in the number of emergency food parcels handed out to those in need.
Figures from the charity show 7,265 emergency food parcels were handed out to people in Barnsley in the year to March at locations in the town centre, Athersley, Darfield, Goldthorpe, Penistone, Royston, Great Houghton, Grimethorpe, Birdwell, Worsbrough and Staincross.
This was an increase from 6,465 emergency food parcels distributed in the year to March 2021, and was up 60 per cent on the 4,536 provided in the year to March 2020, before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The charity typically hands out emergency packages containing three days’ worth of food but since the start of the pandemic, it has also started providing supplies in seven-day packages in response to growing need and to limit the number of deliveries.
The Trussell Trust warned that foodbank use has accelerated in the past six months, as the rising cost of basic amenities has hit people’s pockets.
Emma Revie, chief executive of the charity, said: “People are telling us they’re skipping meals so they can feed their children, that they are turning off essential appliances so they can afford internet access for their kids to do their homework.
“How can this be right in a society like ours?
“Foodbanks in our network tell us this is only set to get worse as their communities are pushed deeper into financial hardship.
“No-one’s income should fall so dangerously low that they cannot afford to stay fed, warm and dry.”
In the year to March, 34 per cent - or 2,496 - of the parcels handed out in Barnsley were given to children, up from 1,710 in the year before the pandemic.
Stephanie Peacock, MP for Barnsley East, said she is worried about the cost of living’s impact on local families.
“The government simply aren’t doing enough to help ordinary families, many of whom are now struggling to afford the basics,” she said.
“Basic necessities like food have become too expensive, gas bills have become unaffordable almost overnight and the price of fuel has sky-rocketed.
“When forced to make choices between eating, heating and leaving the house, it feels for many like it is not just the cost of living, but the cost of surviving, that has become too high.
“I am aware of the worry this is causing people locally - many have been in touch to let me know how they are coping and have expressed concerns that making ends meet is beginning to feel impossible.”
Food poverty continues to be extremely high in Barnsley and the town is one of the worst-hit places in Yorkshire when it comes to its residents going hungry.
A study from the University of Sheffield highlighted that 11 per cent of the population in Barnsley - equivalent to more than 26,000 people - described themselves as ‘hungry’.
Barnsley Central MP Dan Jarvis added: “I’d like to commend foodbanks for their sterling work distributing food parcels to families in need.
“It is, however, a shocking and shameful indictment on our society that foodbanks are needed to prevent hard-up families from falling through the cracks in the welfare state.”