More and more Leeds people finding cupboards bare

Volunteers at East Leeds Foodbank prepare food parcels.
Volunteers at East Leeds Foodbank prepare food parcels.
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The number of foodbanks in Leeds are on the increase with an extra 14 set to open their doors by the end of next year. Debbie Leigh reports.

The number of foodbanks across the city has exploded since September 2013.

In just over a year, under the banner of the Trussell Trust, almost 20 Leeds foodbanks have opened, supplying well over 6,000 people with emergency food parcels when their cupboards were bare.

And as more and more vulnerable residents find themselves forced into food poverty, their rapid expansion is set to continue - with at least 14 more expected to launch by the end of 2015.

Lucy Pitkin, project manager for Leeds West Foodbank, said: “Things aren’t getting better, they’re getting worse.

The numbers are increasing month on month.

“We anticipate at this rate supporting more than 200 people a week by spring 2015.”

She has already warned that Leeds West simply hasn’t got enough supplies to feed everyone who will need help this Christmas, after unprecedented demand from partner agencies for food packs to help their most cash-strapped clients.

What should be a magical time of year is a potential nightmare for people living on the breadline.

That’s why - with just four weeks to go until Christmas - the YEP is relaunching its Feed A Family campaign, to help feed some of the most vulnerable children in Leeds. And we are calling for an army of volunteers to give the gift of time and sign up to help their local foodbanks.

Last Christmas they provided emergency food for around 1,200 people across Leeds who had nowhere else to turn.

Despite a baseline of more than 16 tonnes of food between them, they estimate that they still need to collect at least a further seven tonnes of food to even come close to meeting demand over this year’s festive break.

Leeds West, which opened at the end of January, has fed more than 2,200 people since then.

And almost half of those desperately-hungry service users were children - a figure way above the Trussell Trust’s national average of 31 per cent.

Leeds West has already doubled its centres since the summer and now has four foodbanks – with another planned for January, two in spring and two in summer.

When its new distribution centre at the Venerable Bede Church on Stanningley Road opened this month, Lucy was shocked.

“We don’t expect any clients on the first day but we had five people in the first hour.”

She said the response revealed how many people were battling – and failing – to make ends meet.

She added: “There’s a whole category of people that we did not expect to see, who do have someone in the household working and do own their own home.

“It’s very, very difficult for a lot of people.”

Linda Jackson, project manager for Leeds South - the city’s biggest foodbank network - has recently taken over as project manager for East and said provision there had a lot of catching up to do.

South Leeds, which opened in September 2013, now has eight sites and has fed more than 4,000 people.

In Leeds East, foodbanks in Gipton and Seacroft have now been joined by Lincoln Green, which opened on Friday, with a Harehills centre scheduled to open after Christmas.

A further six are expected to open by the end of 2015. And with deprivation levels low in much of the area, Linda warned that its foodbanks could be as busy as South Leeds.

Kathryn Fitzsimons, vicar of the Church of Epiphany in Gipton and chair of Leeds East Foodbank committee, said vulnerable residents needed distribution centres nearby enough to walk to – and that meant opening many more outlets and recruiting many more volunteers. She said an East Leeds school had recently turned to her to prevent several pupils from going to bed hungry.

“They rang asking could I get three food parcels to them for families who hadn’t got enough food to eat that weekend.

“There isn’t a foodbank in their area yet. That’s why we’ve got to open more locally because obviously if you haven’t got money for food, you haven’t got money for bus fares and if you’re walking carrying carrier bags of food you can’t walk for miles – although people do.”

But with each distribution centre needing between 10 and 25 volunteers to run it project managers now need to recruit “an army of volunteers” - from van drivers to supermarket collections manager and IT support.

Leeds East needs around 100, Leeds West needs an additional 200, North needs dozens and South is desperate for volunteers with IT and admin skills.

The YEP is calling on readers to pledge their support and buy items off our special shopping list over the next four weeks.

Special collection points are available to drop food off around the city to support foodbanks in north, east, south and west Leeds.

And we are also throwing down the gauntlet to businesses, charities and organisations across Leeds to hold their own food collections to support our campaign.

We launch our campaign as a shocking new study reveals delays and gaps in the welfare system are behind the soaring numbers turning to foodbanks.

Problems linked with benefits, such as waiting for payments, are one of the main reasons people turn to food banks, says a report by Oxfam, Child Poverty Action Group, the Church of England and the Trussell Trust.

The number of people receiving three days’ supplies from food banks increased from almost 129,000 in 2011/12 to more than 913,000 a year later, figures showed.

Alison Garnham, chief executive of Child Poverty Action Group, said: “Food banks have boomed not because they’re an easy option but because people haven’t got money to eat - often because of problems with claiming and the payment of benefits.

“A delay in a benefits decision or a period pending a review can force hunger and humiliation on families, leaving them no option but the food bank.”


East Leeds: Oxford Place Methodist Centre, on Mon and Thur, 2pm to 6.30pm.

North Leeds: Moor Allerton Methodist Church, Alderton Rise, on Mon, Wed and Fri from 11am to 1pm; or Lister Hill Baptist Church, Horsforth, 2pm to 4pm on Wed, 10am to noon Sat; Tesco, Roundhay Road, seven days a week.

South Leeds: St John and St Barnabas Church, Belle Isle Road, LS10 3DN, on Wed from 9.30am to 4pm; and Hunslet Methodist Church, Telford Terrace on Wed from 10am to noon.

West Leeds: Tesco in Bramley, all week; Morrish Solicitors in Pudsey, Mon to Fri office hours, and The Mill Kitchen, in Farsley, seven days.


Milk (UHT or powdered)

Sugar (500g)

Fruit juice (carton)

Tinned meat/fish

Tinned veg/fruit


Pasta sauces

Sponge Pudding (tinned)


Rice Pudding (tinned)

Tea bags/instant coffee

Instant Mashed potato



Biscuits/snack bars

Toilet roll

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