The number of Sheffield residents going hungry has soared – after demand at one of the city’s food banks doubled over the last six months.
The ‘Share’ scheme, which serves Parson Cross, has given out food to 651 needy adults and children between January and June this year - compared with 694 food parcels in the whole of 2013.
A report has been sent to former Home Secretary David Blunkett, Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough MP, who is part of a parliamentary committee investigating the extent of hunger in Britain.
He said: “I’m deeply impressed with the work they have done, whilst being deeply depressed about their findings.”
Mr Blunkett added: “It confirms we have ‘two Britains’ - one primarily in London and the South East, feeling more optimistic as the economy emerges from both the global meltdown and the Government’s austerity measures; the second, the real victims of austerity who are struggling to make ends meet.”
Nick Waterfield, from the Parson Cross Initiative, which is behind the Share scheme, said inequality was growing, despite improvements to the wider economy.
The Share report found three-quarters of the people needing food parcels this year required support because of delays to or sanctions on benefit payments.
Mr Waterfield said they had heard of cases of people having their benefit payments delayed for between 10 to 16 weeks – leaving them with nothing to survive on.
The report included case studies from Sheffield families who said they felt ‘ashamed’ to be using food banks – but added their children would be going hungry without the support.
It comes shortly after Sheffield Citizens Advice and Law Centre warned vulnerable jobseekers in the city were having their benefits stopped incorrectly, leaving people with mental health problems and learning disabilities without support.
The government introduced tougher rules on benefit sanctions in October 2013, designed to target people who turned down job offers, missed Job Centre appointments or ‘failed to do enough to find work’.
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said earlier this year sanctions were designed to encourage people back into work but were only used as a ‘last resort’.