Struggling families find it complicated to access Sheffield’s 30 food banks, say councillors
There are more than 30 projects offering food bank services in Sheffield but people say it’s difficult understanding the process and even volunteers struggle to advise.
A Food Poverty Working Group set up by councillors says there have been attempts to map food support in the city by Voluntary Action Sheffield, Sheffield Council and Together for Sheffield, and it found more than 30 projects.
These ranged from small church and community based food banks, providing 10 to 20 emergency parcels a week, to larger food banks providing broader services such as debt advice.
There were also projects providing cooked meals and social opportunities for hundreds of people a week.
But the group’s report says: “Food support is complicated with lots of organisations offering different services with different eligibility criteria and different referral processes.
“Frontline staff and support workers told us that they were unclear where to direct people to, and people seeking support told us they weren’t sure where to go for information.”
The report says the mapping exercise has not been comprehensive and there are inconsistencies in the information collected, which require further verification.
It adds: “Collaboration and collective working between food projects has improved greatly over the last year, partly driven by the response to the pandemic.
“But there were also concerns that without a comprehensive map of provision we don’t know whether there is equitable access to food support across the city.
“Without this knowledge it is hard to know where to focus efforts to encourage new initiatives – or indeed to deter them where existing provision is sufficient.
“Understanding the provision available is also the first step in being able to help people access the right service for them.”
The working party also says Sheffield Council needs to do more to help people find the right support and show them routes in.
One idea is for a searchable online resource that details what support is available and what the requirements are to access it, but this would also need to be available for people without phones or internet access.
The full report can be read here