Sheffield food banks treble

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SHEFFIELD food banks are facing unprecedented pressure from hungry families this Christmas - as benefits cuts and rising prices force more people below the poverty line.

A huge rise in demand for food to feed the city’s vulnerable has seen a more than threefold increase the number of food banks in the city - from three to 10 in less than a year.

Around 80 households are fed each week by food donated by the public, and distributed by church and volunteer associations across Sheffield.

According to charities and social workers the situation is the worst it has been in 30 years - and could deteriorate even further as more benefits changes are implemented in April.

“More and more families are having to choose between paying for gas and electricity to keep warm, or buying food,” said Sarah Gowen, manager of Home-Start Sheffield, part of a national network of Family Support Charities.

“Kids will go hungry this Christmas or they will fill up on poor quality, cheap food.

“People on benefits and those in low paid jobs are struggling. It’s the worst it’s been in living memory. And it will get even worse after April when the new benefit rules come into force.”

Food banks like S6 and Jubilee supply food to some of the poorest areas of the city, and have been delivering Christmas hampers this week to the most needy families in Sheffield.

“It’s bad now but it will be worse after Christmas when the bills start rolling in,” said Chris Marriott of Jubilee.

“We only set the food bank up in April and we will have provided 14,000 emergency meals from this one bank alone by the end of the year.”

Arbourthorne councillor Jack Scott said: “The fact that there is a need for more food banks is a national scandal.

“We are doing everything we can to protect people who are experiencing hardship.

“We know people are struggling and that is why we are making tackling food poverty one of our top priorities.

“In January, we are proposing to implement the living wage and we hope other businesses will follow our example. The council will also work with food banks to make sure they have everything they need to support the poorest and most vulnerable.”

n Sheffield family went without food for five days.