Volunteer drivers needed at busy Leeds foodbank 'forced to close for two months'

Tricia Ryder, of Leeds North and West Foodbank.
Tricia Ryder, of Leeds North and West Foodbank.

A Leeds foodbank is in vital need of new volunteer drivers after being forced to shut for an estimated period of eight weeks.

The Trussell Trust's Leeds North and West Foodbank service suspended its branch in Bramley, its "busiest by a long way", at the beginning of the month because it had too few volunteers.

Distribution centre manager Tricia Ryder estimates that around 30 vouchers are usually redeemed for three-day emergency packs at the branch every Wednesday - but that could be catering for a number of people in one household - meaning hundreds people in the area may be deprived of last-resort meal donations during the closure.

She said: "You can imagine just how difficult a decision it was for us to make.

"It's our busiest centre and nobody want to close something that is supporting vulnerable people in the community."

Anyone who wishes to sign up as a volunteer driver would need to apply, provide two references and be interviewed before their training takes place.

Families who would have used the centre for food packs can use others in thearea, although Mrs Ryder acknowledged some can not afford the bus fare.

The nearest centre is the new Armley branch, which opens at the Helping Hands facility in Strawberry Lane between 10am and noon on Thursdays.

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

Leeds North and West Foodbank provided 11,710 three-day emergency food supplies to people in crisis between April 2018 to March 2019.

But Mrs Ryder says there has been a 30 per cent increase in the use of the Leeds North and West and the South and East services since last year, surpassing the national upswing of 13 per cent.

Labour MP for Leeds West, Rachel Reeves, also today appealed for support.

She said: "Sad news that Bramley Foodbank has been forced to close for two months due to lack of volunteers.

"Without more drivers, they will be unable to support the most vulnerable in our society. Can you help?"

To sign up, visit the service's website at https://leedsnorthandwest.foodbank.org.uk/