Leeds food bank warns of fewer donations due to 'people tightening their belts'

Food banks in Leeds are warning that the demand for their services are not only increasing, but members of the public are now less able to donate, due to the increases in living costs faced by UK households.

By richard.beecham richard.beecham
Wednesday, 27th April 2022, 4:45 am
Updated Wednesday, 27th April 2022, 10:24 am

It comes as new figures released today show food banks in the Trussell Trust’s network provided more than 2.1 million parcels to people facing financial hardship across the country from 1 April 2021 to 31 March this year - a 14 per cent increase compared to the same period in 2019/20.

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According to figures for Leeds, the number had actually reduced from 31,526 individual food parcels handed out to just 23,535 last year, although the number of distribution centres during that time had also reduced from 27 to just 19.

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Project manager Wendy Doyle with Nathanya Laurent, foodbank development manager at the Leeds South and East Foodbank.

Those working on the ground in Leeds paint a different picture, however, and say without the extra help of local authorities provided during the height of the pandemic, the number of people needing help has increased, while the number of donations has also gone down.

Nathanya Laurent, who helps run Leeds South and East Food Bank, said: "Initially in the pandemic, we saw a reduction in the amount of people who first came to us, but that was when Leeds City Council and a lot of the other providers in the city worked together - the council ran a food parcel delivery service.

"But as of March this year, that has now stopped.

"The number of people presenting to us has gone up - the cost of living has hit everybody. We are seeing a spike in not just the need for food but fuel as well - people's bills are going up.

"We also see a real increase on the number of people who are in work but cannot afford to pay for things.

"This is historically what we have seen all the time but it is even worse now."

She added that, with the huge increase in energy bills and groceries recently, the number of people who are able to help food banks continue to run is also dwindling.

"We have seen a spike in the demand for the service," Nathanya said. "Especially since the end of March and beginning of April, but we have also seen a dip in donations as well. There are probably several factors at play there. People who maybe could afford to donate to us are tightening their belts.

"When you go to the supermarket, you see everything costs more. So maybe £10 of food a few months ago is different to what you get now.

"It's a balancing act at the moment."

The Trussell Trust, which oversees a network of food banks across the country, said food bank managers are also now warning of an accelerating crisis across the UK following the cut to Universal Credit, and that this has accelerated throughout the past six months.

Emma Revie, chief executive of the Trussell Trust, said: “People are telling us they’re skipping meals so they can feed their children. That they are turning off essential appliances so they can afford internet access for their kids to do their homework.

“How can this be right in a society like ours? And yet food banks in our network tell us this is only set to get worse as their communities are pushed deeper into financial hardship. No one’s income should fall so dangerously low that they cannot afford to stay fed, warm and dry.

“There is still time for the UK government to do the right thing. We are calling on the UK government to bring benefits in line with the true cost of living. As an urgent first step benefits should be increased by at least 7 per cent, keeping pace with increases in the cost of living. In the longer term, we need the government to introduce a commitment in the benefits system to ensure that everyone has enough money in their pockets to be prevented from falling into destitution.”

“By failing to make benefits payments realistic for the times we face, the government now risks turning the cost of living crisis into a national emergency.”

A Government spokesperson said: “We recognise the pressures on the cost of living and we are doing what we can to help, including spending £22 billion across the next financial year to support people with energy bills and cut fuel duty.

“For the hardest hit, we’re putting an average of £1,000 more per year into the pockets of working families on Universal Credit, have also boosted the minimum wage by more than £1,000 a year for full-time workers and our Household Support Fund is there to help with the cost of everyday essentials.”