Rising numbers turn to church food banks

David Blunkett
David Blunkett

A CHURCH team in Sheffield predicted this week that it will face an increase in demand over the winter for its supply of emergency food.

Economic hardship is prompting increasing numbers of people to seek help from food banks.

Already the Jubilee Food Bank, part of City Church Sheffield in Wilson Road, off Ecclesall Road, has provided more than 10,000 emergency meals to families since it opened in April.

Chris Marriott, who leads the team, said: “Food banks are a great opportunity to show ordinary people going through tough times that people care about them, that God cares about their situation.

“Ten thousand meals could be seen as a huge achievement, but to us it is also a sad indication of the fact that so many people here in Sheffield are struggling to feed their families and themselves in these tough times.”

Food banks are being set up across the country, and in Sheffield have also been set up by churches in Burngreave, Fir Vale, Gleadless Valley, Philadelphia/Shalesmoor and Parson Cross.

Most of the food comes from people who choose to buy an extra item or two with their weekly shopping, and then donate them at collection points such as libraries, supermarkets, schools and workplaces.

“Sometimes, we’ve had people come and give us a whole trolley-load of food when they have been at local supermarkets,” said Chris.

He added: “Yes, some people may abuse the scheme from time to time, but these people are very much in the minority and it’s important to keep this in perspective. The referral system we use minimises this and most people referred to us really need this short-term emergency help.”

The Jubilee Food Bank operates on a the basis that an individual or family is ‘recommended’ by their GP, social worker or another health and social care professional working long-term with them.

On a recent visit to a food bank, Brightside and Hillsborough MP David Blunkett said: “It is self-evident that we should not be, in the 21st first century, having to offer crisis help from food banks, but without their assistance and the wonderful volunteers who support the projects, many families would literally be going without this winter.

“I hope we can encourage both individual families and businesses across the city to think about what they might donate in the run-up to Christmas, which will make the winter and the festive season not only more enjoyable but literally free from hunger.”

Organisers of food banks do fear demand will rise even further as a result of changes to the benefits system from April.

The Trussell Trust, which runs a national network of food banks, fed around 128,000 people in the UK last year.

In the first six months of this year, the figure had already reached 100,000.

For more information see www.sheffieldfoodbank.org.uk.