YEP Says, June 19: We mustn’t stand by as children in city go hungry

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As statistics go, they are more than a cause for concern. They are absolutely shocking.

As statistics go, they are more than a cause for concern. They are absolutely shocking.

Let’s digest them for a minute: 20,406 people fed via a food bank or collection service in Leeds last year; 26,182 given food parcels; 7,372 in north and east Leeds found to be in such need they were given three days’ emergency food handouts; 56,481 meals and sandwich batches given out through street volunteer outreach work.

This isn’t 18th or 19th century Leeds when hunger and poverty were rife, when families tumbled into the black holes of unemployment and illness and died from want and need.

This is today. This is yesterday. This is happening right now. And it will keep happening - right under our noses.

What good is ‘shocking’ if we merely ‘tut tut’ and move on.

Our special report today reveals that children are going hungry in our city on a regular basis.

It reveals that just eight months ago, south Leeds had two foodbanks. It now has nine. And in east Leeds - an area with high levels of deprivation - four foodbanks have opened in the space of 10 months, with more still desperately needed. And it’s going to get worse, according to Dave Paterson, of Unity in Poverty Action, which chairs the Leeds Food Aid Networks. He believes more and more people will turn to foodbanks due to an increase in delays to benefits, sanctions and the substantial cost of rising food prices.

Next week the Yorkshire Evening Post ‘Voice of Leeds’ summit with our friends at the Leeds Community Foundation bring together key people in the city to look specifically at food poverty and how, with so much food going to waste, the city can reduce the gap between food production and consumption. Work is already underway in Leeds to intercept food destined for waste, with successful projects such as the pay-as-you-feel Real Junk Food Cafe in Armley and FareShare Yorkshire, which set up a warehouse in Holbeck in November and now supplies food to 32 Leeds charities.

These are brilliant initiatives. There are many, many people giving time and money to help resolve this catastrophic problem in the city.

But more needs to be done to try and halt our rising demand for food aid.

This city of such opportunity cannot be a place that allows its children to go hungry.