National focus on foodbanks as Leeds campaign gathers pace

Linda Jackson, project manager at Leeds South Foodbank
Linda Jackson, project manager at Leeds South Foodbank
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Leading church figures including the Archbishop of Canterbury have joined UK politicians to launch a blueprint to eliminate hunger in Britain by 2020.

The move comes as the YEP nears the halfway mark of its campaign to Feed a Family this Christmas – calling on readers to support the city’s foodbanks in a bid to prevent youngsters from going to bed hungry.

The Feeding Britain report was prompted by concern over the “unprecedented” numbers of people depending on food banks in the UK – which one charity labelled a “national scandal”.

It called for action to speed the processing of benefits to ensure new claimants are not left for weeks without an income; stop “rip-off” companies charging higher prices to the poor; and end the “scandal” which sees millions of tonnes of waste food destroyed by supermarkets and food manufacturers.

Matthew Reed, chief executive of The Children’s Society, said: “Families are facing a quadruple whammy of depressed wages, a malfunctioning benefits system, cuts to state support and unaffordable bills for energy, food and housing. It’s a national scandal that ever more families are resorting to food banks to feed their children and it’s imperative that this report’s call for action is answered.”

As revealed in the Yorkshire Evening Post, around 3,000 of the city’s most vulnerable residents are expected to fall into food poverty over this festive period – forced to rely on charity because they can’t afford to eat.

We are urging individuals and organisations across the city to hold collections and help put food on the table for families with nowhere else to turn.

We are also calling for an army of volunteers to give the gift of time and sign up to help their local foodbanks.

The All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Hunger in the UK found that, since the establishment of the Trussell Trust network in 2004, the number of emergency food assistance providers has grown to at least 1,500.

The charity, which has foodbanks in East, South, West and North Leeds, said that its 420 UK food banks had helped 913,138 people in 2013/14 – a huge rise from 128,697 in 2011/12.

The report said it was “clear that demand for emergency food assistance is increasing, and sometimes increasing dramatically”.

That has been apparent in Leeds, with the number of food distribution centres exploding over the past year.

Since September 2013, almost 20 Leeds foodbanks have opened under the banner of the Trussell Trust, supplying well over 6,000 people with emergency food parcels.

The report found many people turn to food banks to avoid hunger during “unimaginable” waits for benefit claims to be processed, while others have been left without an income for weeks or months because of benefit sanctions.

And the support networks of family and community which would once have helped those facing hunger appear to have “diminished”, leaving individuals “isolated and exposed” at times of financial crisis.

It called for the establishment of a national organisation, also called Feeding Britain, to drive a campaign to end hunger, and urged the Government to help fund 12 pilot projects across the UK. It also called for a “co-ordinated response” from government to reduce hunger, which included ensuring schools take action on children arriving in the morning unfed.

We are calling on YEP readers to pledge their support and buy items off our special shopping list. Collection points are available around the city and businesses, charities and organisations can hold their own food collections or donate money or time.

To view our map of Leeds foodbanks go to https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=zax08ikw_R2U.koYNA8T989mo

l We want to hear from you. Get in touch and tell us what you are doing to help us Feed a Family this Christmas. Email debbie.leigh@ypn.co.uk andlaura.bowyer@ypn.co.uk

Dr Tom Dobson, course director at Leeds Beckett University.

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