Food poverty in South Yorkshire has been branded ‘disgraceful’ after it was revealed more than 60 foodbanks are helping feed needy families.
Church leaders made the comments in response to a survey of foodbanks by the Diocese of Sheffield.
And the Bishop of Sheffield has urged politicians to act and protect the most vulnerable in society.
The study found 15 foodbanks or organisations providing emergency support in Sheffield, 24 in Rotherham, 11 in Doncaster and one in Barnsley acting as an umbrella for 12 outlets, plus at least one independent foodbank.
But more foodbanks may exist that church leaders are unaware of.
Church leaders were asked for their thoughts on food poverty and the comments were damning. One said: “I think it’s disgraceful that so many people are relying on foodbanks in 21st century Britain. There is no safety net for the most vulnerable people in our society.”
And one foodbank provider said the difference between supply and demand for food meant people were in a ‘race to the bottom’.
The Diocese carried out the survey at the request of the Feeding Britain programme, which came ot of an all-party parliamentary inquiry into hunger in the UK.
Bishop of Sheffield Steven Croft said: “It would be excellent if none of them were needed but all of them are.”
The bishop said there were a number of reasons why people still needed foodbanks – but top of the list were delays or errors in paying benefits, problems with disability benefits, or the application of benefit sanctions
“People may be out of work, or they may be in very low paid jobs,” he said. “Most commonly, people use food banks when there is some unforeseen crisis in their lives.”
The Diocese report made three recommendations to the Department for Work and Pensions – to minimise delays in paying benefits’ to rebuild an effective system of crisis loans and hardship payments and to hold an independent review of benefit sanctions policy.
Sheffield S6 Foodbank was set up in 2013 and has helped thousands of people.
Andy Niblock, who helps run it, agreed with the conclusions of the Diocese and said: “We are one of about 18 or 19 in the city that we are aware of. The question we are all asking is why do we still need foodbanks in modern Britain?”
Andy said benefit delays were a problem. “They can mean days or weeks of people not hearing anything or not getting any money,” he said. “Benefit sanctions are also an issue, and then there is low income. People who are actually working but it’s still not enough.”
Andy said part of the role foodbanks had to play was to lobby politicians and speak up for their users.
“This is about all political parties understanding the realities of food poverty. We want to help people help themselves out of food poverty long-term.”