Sheffield food banks are under strain as they face the busiest winter yet

Food banks in Sheffield are set to experience their highest demand to date this winter according to figures from the Trussell Trust.

Friday, 29th November 2019, 12:11 pm
Updated Monday, 2nd December 2019, 8:20 am
Owls fans at Hillsborough on Saturday before their home game with Derby County helping to support the S6 Foodbank.Pictured is Owls fan Lee Townend(right) handing over a bag of food to Chris Hardy.......Pic Steve Ellis

Managers of food banks in Sheffield have spoken out about the growing need for donations and volunteers as the number of people desperate for their support has increased throughout the year.

In 2018, food bank network the Trussell Trust handed out 2,539 three-day emergency food parcels in South Yorkshire. This is equivalent to 573 every week – with more than a third going to children.

It meant the charity recorded an 11 per cent increase in demand in the area, compared to the monthly average for 2018-19. On top of these figures, independent food banks handed out thousands of parcels.

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Food banks in South Yorkshire are expecting record high demand this December.

With demand for 2019 so far being an average of five per cent higher across the county than it was in 2018, the need for support from food banks this winter is expected to reach record numbers.

Chris Hardy, project manager at the independent Sheffield S6 food bank said: “We are at a point already where people are having to choose between putting the central heating on and buying food.

“The number of people needing our support has started to increase ahead of the winter period already, and this is also part of a year on year trend of demand increasing by around 20 per cent.

“What is even more worrying is that in general we have had quite a mild autumn this year. Usually is the weather in autumn is more severe we have higher demand. For us to already have this level of demand in a year when the weather has not been too bad is a worry.”

Crates of food at S6 food bank in Sheffield

Mr Hardy also explained that unexpected delays in benefits payments were having a negative impact on people’s ability to survive without the support from food banks.

“Today we had a woman come in and she had no money to pay bills, no food in her cupboards and was having to wait 10 weeks while her universal credit was delayed,” he said.

“People think it is in certain areas of Sheffield, but from my experience, on nearly every street in the city there is somebody who needs a food bank or is close to needing a food bank.

“By the end of this year we expect to have fed around 7500 people. Many of them are children. We should not need food banks in 2019 and no child should ever have to go hungry. Their education suffers and it affects their future.”

Owls fans at Hillsborough on Saturday before their home game with Derby County helping to support the S6 Foodbank.Pictured are from LtoR Cllr Ben Curran with his son James and Chris Hardy.......Pic Steve Ellis

Rachel Snow, project manager of Burngreave food bank, said that although demand was high and still rising, the generosity of people in Sheffield was enabling them to cope and that donations are vital.

She said: “Last year we gave out approximately 3500 parcels and this year it is looking like we will exceed that based on what we have given out so far and the busy month ahead.

“We are very lucky the as demand goes up we also find that donations are going up. Today we had two big collections at Tesco on Spital Hill and in Eccleshall which was wonderful.

“I am very encouraged by how generous people have been and we need that to carry on as we are totally dependent on these donations. If they dry up we would be running into big problems.”

Mr Hardy stressed that volunteers and donations are always needed to help meet demand.

He said: “Each year there is more demand and we struggle to get enough volunteers to enable us to meet that. But the generosity of people in Sheffield is amazing.

“We have volunteers who go above and beyond to help people in this city. 95 per cent of our donations are from the public, many of whom go out and buy food they themselves would never need, just so they can donate it.”

Nationwide, the number of food parcels handed out by the charity last December was 44 per cent higher than the monthly average for the year.

More than 186,000 parcels were given away during the month, of which two in five went to children.

A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: "We spend over £95 billion a year on working-age benefits and Universal Credit supports more than 2.5 million people across the UK.

"With Universal Credit people can get paid urgently if they need it and 95 per cent of payments are made in full and on time."