THE number of people fed by food banks across the region has trebled in the past year, with children making up nearly a third of those reliant on handouts, the Yorkshire Post can reveal.
Latest figures from national charity the Trussell Trust show 32,607 people - 10,518 of whom were under 18 - sought provisions from its 23 food banks in the Yorkshire since April last year, up from 10,031 in the same period in 2012/2013.
While much of the demand comes from inner-cities, experts warned of increasingly desperate conditions for the “hidden hungry” suffering from food poverty in rural areas.
And with a growing number of food banks run by churches and communities, it is believed the data only paints a fraction of the picture of the problem of food poverty.
News of the growing reliance comes on the same day a report from Involve Yorkshire calls for a solution to the current hunger crisis sweeping cities and towns. The organisation found evidence of people scouring bins for food and adults going hungry to feed their children after spending time at 10 of Sheffield’s food banks.
Chief executive Judy Robinson said: “It’s increasing poverty and the failures of the benefit system that are pushing people to use food banks. Thank goodness the voluntary sector steps in to help.
“The current situation is unsustainable, however. Cuts in one place pop up as costs in another.”
Rachael Kingdom, who compiled the North Yorkshire Emergency Food Provision Research project for the CVS last summer, said: “One of the problems in this district is that often people can’t afford to get to a food bank using public transport and we’re dealing with people who don’t traditionally get picked up by other services so it’s harder to identify them.
“I think because North Yorkshire is viewed as an affluent area they think there isn’t a problem, but it is. We’re working with charities to deliver food parcels out to those rural areas.”
Alec Lutton, of Ripon’s Bread of Life food bank, said: “For the moment, we supply food parcels every two weeks, however over the past four months we have had requests some times two to three times a week, to supply to those who need help.
“Each family or person is given enough in a food parcel, to last them between six to eight days, but with the growing numbers of people needing the food parcels, we are finding it very hard to have enough to go around.”
In Bradford the Trussell Trust’s central food bank, more than doubled the amount of people it fed last year to 5,000 - with 40 per cent of referrals from job centres in the city.
Volunteers say the service increasingly relied upon to provide toiletries and other essentials.
Manager Ben Haldane said: “The food bank is the last resort for most people. One couple who came to us had told neighbours they were moving so they could borrow newspapers to pad out boxes, but really they couldn’t afford toilet paper.”Xref to page five case study and leader