Some hungry families not using Leeds food banks 'because they're too embarrassed'

Tricia Ryder, food bank distribution centre manager at Moortown Methodist Church.
Tricia Ryder, food bank distribution centre manager at Moortown Methodist Church.

Desperate families could be shying away from using food banks in Leeds because they feel embarrassed about needing the help, staff believe.

Tricia Ryder thinks that despite year-on-year rises of food bank use in the city – and a so-called “holiday hunger” during school summer breaks driving demand up to a point that it outstrips supply – there is still an unmet need among the most poor sections of society.

The distribution centre manager at Moortown Methodist Church, which is part of the Leeds North and West Foodbank network, spoke to the YEP as part of our Feed A Family campaign.

She said: “For a lot of people, they struggle with the whole concept that they’ve got to ask for support, especially to ask for food to feed their families.

“I think we are not seeing everybody, frankly, because I think they’re just too embarrassed to come.”

Some parents need to feed their children but do not want to take them to food banks, she said – but cannot afford childcare either. She also thinks that there could be an unmet need for food banks among men, who are traditionally less willing to accept help and share feelings.

“It’s very much a social order, the stigma of poverty,” Tricia said.

But she added: “I would hope that everybody that does make their way here feels better than when they arrived.

“It’s that group perhaps you don’t ever see that worries us.”

The Government has said it spends £90 billion in working age benefits “to provide a strong safety net for those who need it most”.

In 2016/17, though, the Leeds North and West service gave out 8,121 emergency three-day supplies – a figure which shot up to 9,544 a year later. Between March and July this year alone, 3,694 were handed out – with 389 going to children.

Blaming benefits changes for most of the rise in demand, she said: “Stock’s going out almost as quickly as it’s coming in.”