Leeds food bank figures and debt services in spotlight at election

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Campaigners today urged Leeds’s parliamentary candidates to make a commitment to improving access to debt advisory services as new figures confirmed rising levels of food bank usage in the city.

The Leeds Food Aid Network (FAN) says the number of people using food banks across the city has increased by six per cent in just 12 months.

Figures released last week showed the number of people using the city’s two biggest food banks, run by the Trussell Trust, rose by 13 per cent over the same period.

Leeds FAN says the increases can in part be attributed to a “critical shortage” of services available to people with debt and welfare problems.

It claims that Leeds residents struggling to make ends meet are having to wait at least three weeks before they can access any face-to-face debt advice.

And Leeds FAN is now writing to all of the city’s election candidates asking them to include the fight against food poverty and debt among their campaign priorities.

Poverty campaigner and former Leeds MP John Battle, who is a co-signatory of the letter, said: “All Leeds candidates need to take seriously the facts on the ground which now clearly reveal people in work, as well as those without it, need urgent government action to keep them out of crippling debt.”

Leeds FAN’s figures show the city’s 12 food banks were accessed 26,831 times between April 2016 and March this year. The total for the previous 12 months was 25,186.

The number of meals or sandwich batches distributed by food kitchens or community cafes in the city rose by 11 per cent.

Leeds FAN says the increased reliance on food bank provision is putting particular pressure on the city’s two Trussell Trust food banks, Leeds North West and Leeds South East.

And Leeds FAN chair Dave Paterson is asking people to consider making regular donations to food banks over the summer as it is the time of year when they normally struggle most for supplies.

For further information, visit www.leedsfoodaidnetwork.co.uk.