Food bank manager, Chris Hardy, works with more than 30 volunteers to provide support to people in crisis in Sheffield. He tells Maryam Qaiser why cuts and austerity have left people unable to feed themselves.

When people think of food banks, they assume it is mainly homeless people who use them, but that is just a myth.

We see parents and families who work but can’t afford to put food on the table and people with serious debt issues. 

We hear the same horrendous stories time and time again, such as people not eating for four days. This is just a normal story these days.

Some parents can’t afford to eat, so they feed their children first and they eat their leftover scraps.

Myself and the volunteers offer a food and clothing bank and support with debt and benefits. People who visit us at S6 Food Bank will come and have a chat with our volunteers over biscuits and tea.

Road to Wigan Pier author, George Orwell

 

In 2011/12, when we first opened, we had 2,300 people come through our doors, fast forward to 2018/19 we had 7,000 visitors.

We are starting to see an influx of people who have recently been put onto Universal Credit, their payments are being processed.

The cost of living has gone up, but everything else is shrinking such as the agencies and support services. When the government says they have made 0.09 per cent cuts for example, it might not seem like a lot, but this could affect 20,000 people.

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The benefit system does not work how it should work, it has always been difficult and people don’t know when they will get their money.

Overall 80 per cent of the benefit system works, but there is that 20 per cent which doesn’t work.

 

I have worked with people to help them complete one benefit application, which can take up two hours. But not everyone has access to a computer or the internet.

Something has to change. We cannot continue to cope with a 20 per cent year on year growth.

It is an injustice to people if they are forced to use a food bank, when the system has let them down.

I have come from a working class family, so I know the struggles it can bring.

I don’t want that for the next generation. I grew up on a council estate so I know firsthand the hardship people face. I want to ensure people have better opportunities.

 

At the food bank we work with 140 referrals, but what we don’t want is to see the same people coming back each week.

We want to work with people to enable them to get back on to their feet.

It is hard enough for people to come and use the food banks, we want to ensure we give them their dignity and we want to break down barriers.

Have Your Say

Tell us about the issues affecting you.

We are retracing the journey George Orwell made in his book, The Road to Wigan Pier , to share your stories of working and unemployed poverty.

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They’ll appear in a regular series in the Daily Mirror newspaper and here, on our special anniversary website .





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