Feeding Britain Research

The Bishop of Sheffield has published the findings of a research project into the food bank networks operating within the Diocese of Sheffield.

The research has found that somewhere between 50-60 food banks and emergency food providers are in operation throughout the area.  These generally source their food from a combination of personal, commercial and church donations, as well as through partnerships with organisations, such as FareShare, that redistribute edible surplus food from supermarkets’ supply chains.

The final report is based on evidence given in response to a series of consultation questions.  Responses to these questions were gathered from churches, homeless support organisations, the Trussell Trust and other third sector groups. Key conclusions from the report are:

  • All churches that responded encounter regular cases of hunger and food poverty.
  • Benefit delays, errors and sanctions are cited as the main reason that people are hungry and struggling to eat.
  • Changes to, and problems with, disability benefits are also a major contributing factor to the use of food banks in our area.
  • 100% of both church and provider responses indicated that relieving hunger should be the responsibility of national government.
  • There is some local authority involvement (often including some modest resource) in each borough.

The Diocese includes three major administrative areas in their entirety – the metropolitan boroughs of Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield –and also parts of Barnsley Metropolitan Borough (around the north) and East Riding of Yorkshire (to the east).

Writing on his blog as the report was published, the Bishop of Sheffield, said:

"Why do people need food banks in modern Britain?  We have food in abundance - enough to waste in most of our homes.  There are many different reasons but top of the list in every survey are delays or errors in paying benefits, problems with disability benefits, or the application of benefit sanctions", he continued: "it is important to understand that something can be done about most of these reasons."

The local research was conducted as a response to the national Feeding Britain Inquiry.  This was set up by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hunger and Food Poverty in 2014.  The national report’s main task was to consider the reasons behind the large rise in the use of food banks, and associated provision of emergency food assistance, over the last few years.  It made a request to Bishops and others for an assessment of what is happening in the provision of food banks across the country.

The Diocese of Sheffield has written to every MP in the area with the findings along with a final copy of the report.

The full report from the Diocese of Sheffield can be downloaded here.

The national Feeding Britain report can be accessed here: Feeding Britain: A strategy for zero hunger in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland - The report of the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Hunger in the United Kingdom.

Bishop Steven's blog on the report can be found here: A Sheffield Parable (and an inspiring true story)