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 at locations in the town centre, Athersley, Darfield, Goldthorpe, Penistone, Royston, Great Houghton, Grimethorpe, Birdwell, Worsbrough and Staincross.
Latest Office for Health, Improvement and Disparities figures show 47 per cent of Barnsley residents - equivalent to 114,540 people - suffered from food insecurity.
Food insecurity is when people do not have consistent access to enough food that is varied, culturally appropriate and can sustain an active and healthy lifestyle.
Rachel Bull, head of policy and research at the Trussell Trust, said: “Food insecurity is a deeply concerning issue that spans the whole of the UK.
“We live in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, and yet what these statistics show is that hundreds of thousands of people in the UK are going without the essentials we all need to get by.
“We are urging the UK government to create an ‘essentials guarantee’ by changing the law to make sure the standard rate of Universal Credit always, at a minimum, provides enough to the cover cost of essentials such as food, utilities, and vital household goods.”
The Trussell Trust’s figures show 1.3 million food parcels were handed out across the UK in the six months to September - a 33 per cent increase on the same period in 2021, and the highest number on record.
Of them, 4,634 were given out in Barnsley - up from 2,986 in the six months to September 2021.
A government spokesperson said it recognises the pressures of the cost-of-living crisis and is ‘committed to eradicating poverty’.
They added: “We have uprated benefits by 10.1 per cent, as well as making an unprecedented increase to the National Living Wage this month.
“This is on top of changes already made to Universal Credit, which mean claimants can keep more of their hard-earned money.
“We are also providing record levels of direct financial support for the most vulnerable - £1,200 last year and a further £1,350 in 2023/24 - while the Household Support Fund is helping people with essential costs.”
Barnsley East MP Stephanie Peacock said the charity had also noticed a stark rise in families with children requiring urgent help.
“Families in Barnsley and across the country are struggling under the strain of poverty and food insecurity.
“Foodbanks have reported an increase in demand, and providers are worried that if demand continues to rise, they might have to cut support, or even turn people away.
“Barnsley’s foodbanks have reported a 46% increase in children needing food parcels.
“The Trussell Trust have raised concerns about people falling into chronic destitution.
“Families who were struggling before the cost-of-living crisis are unable to cut costs any more than they already have.
“People with no previous police records are being caught stealing food and other essentials.
“Others are self-disconnecting from pre-payment meters, having no choice but to risk their health as they are unable to pay for heating.
“Charities and local groups do incredible work to support their communities but this isn’t their mess to fix.”