Leeds foodbank reports 28.9% rise in demand for emergency food supplies

Karen Burgon, project director for Leeds North and West Foodbank

By Abbey Maclure

Leeds North and West Foodbank has found the demand for emergency food supplies has increased by 28.9% compared to the same period last year.

The foodbank provided over 5,000 three-day emergency food supplies between April 1 and September 30, and of this number 2,000 supplies went to children.

Volunteers at the foodbank believe that the increase is due to problems with benefits payments and the roll-out of universal credit.

Karen Burgon, project director of the foodbank, said that this increase reflects figures across the country.

She said: “There will always be people who have a crisis, but the problem now is that this seems to be more and more people.

“The benefits freeze really has affected people and things have got worse for the people who have the least.”

The foodbank receives most of its donations between October and January and these supplies will usually last until summer.

However, Karen is worried that if the demand for supplies continues to increase, the foodbank will start to struggle much earlier next year.

She said: “We haven’t had full roll out of universal credit, so not all of it is going to be related.

“But we have had an increase in single people coming, and they are the people that universal credit has affected, so that could have had a major impact.”

In the 2018 Budget the government announced that universal credit work allowances would increase by £1,000 for working families and those with disabilities.

They also announced an extra £1billion into the rollout and cut waiting times for universal credit applicants from six weeks to five weeks.

However, Jean Orton, from Horsforth, has volunteered at the foodbank for four years and says that this wait is still a huge struggle for some people.

She said: “The people that come have a genuine need. It’s not because they want extra, it’s because they need it.

“The change to Universal Credit has affected a lot of people, sometimes it’s just waiting for it.

“If they’ve been dependent on money coming in regularly and it stops, what do they do?”

The foodbank relies on 250 active volunteers and last year donated around 71 tonnes of food.

Fabian Hamilton, Labour MP for Leeds North East, praised the volunteers and those who donate to foodbanks.

He said: “As the fifth-largest economy in the world, we should not have people relying on food banks to feed themselves and their families.

“It is time for the government to properly invest in our economy, to create the jobs and increase people’s wages so this does not have to happen.”

Yorkshire Voice contacted Stuart Andrew, Conservative MP for Pudsey, Horsforth & Aireborough, and Conservative councillors for Horsforth but they did not respond at time of publication.

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