Thousands of school children would be going hungry across Leeds this summer if it wasn’t for the help of emergency parcels being handed out by food banks.
Bosses at The Trussell Trust - which operates the Leeds North and West and the Leeds South and East foodbank - say the problem of families living below the breadline is actually getting worse and today have joined forces with the Yorkshire Evening Post to call on readers to help ‘Feed a Family’.
Across the city there are 19 foodbank distribution points which are all handing out food, and other essential items such as toilet rolls and washing powder, faster than they can source it at this time of year.
Official statistics, revealed to the Yorkshire Evening Post by the Trust, show that 4,412 more three-day emergency food supplies were given to children in July and August 2016 than in the previous two months of the year.
A spokesperson for the Trust said: “It’s very hard for us to predict food bank use, and we prefer not to speculate.
“However we are concerned that in 2016-17 we saw a rise on the previous year, and we haven’t heard from foodbanks anecdotally that they’ve seen a decrease in referrals for emergency support this year so far.”
This is being attributed to the fact foodbanks are feeding children who might have had free school dinners and breakfast club places in term time but during the school holidays parents are struggling to provide three meals a day for their children.
Samantha Stapley, The Trussell Trust’s operations manager, said: “Over a third of all the food distributed by food banks in our network consistently goes to children, and our new figures show five to 11 year-olds are more likely than other children to receive a foodbank’s help. This highlights just how close to crisis many families are living.
“As a nation we also must address the reasons why families with children are referred to food banks in the first place.
“We welcome the Government’s decision to maintain free school lunches for children during term time – the next step must be to help families during the holidays.
“Foodbanks are doing more than ever before but voluntary organisations alone cannot stop primary school children facing hunger.”
The foodbanks rely solely on donations of food from the public, either through drop off points in supermarkets across Leeds or walk in donations, church collections and school harvest festivals – but at this time of year, when it is needed most, the number of donations are decreasing.
Karen Burgon, project manager for the Leeds sites, said: “There is a lull at this time of year. We don’t get as many donations but we are giving food out faster than we get it in. We are feeding children because the schools don’t.”
However, the bigger picture suggests it is not just restricted to the summer break where families need help.
Leeds North and West provided 8,054 three-day emergency food supplies to people in crisis in 2016-17, with 3,038 of those going to children.
This was an increase of almost 500 compared to the 7,677 three-day emergency food supplies handed out in 2015-16.
Leeds South and East saw the biggest increase after it provided 7,717 three-day emergency food supplies to people in crisis in 2016-17, with 3,077 going to children.
This was an increase of 1,483 food parcels compared to the 6,234 packages supplied in 2015-16.
* Find out more about the Leeds South and East foodbank in another special report in tomorrow’s Evening Post.