Rising living costs have left thousands of people going hungry, sometimes for days at a time, a major new study into foodbank use has revealed for the first time.
More than 62,000 people across Yorkshire turned to foodbanks to feed themselves and their families last year, with nearly 25,000 of them being children.
Foodbanks in Harrogate and Ripon are urging residents to help and donate to emergency food supplies, after the latest Trussell Trust figures show that 594 children and 1,166 adults in the Harrogate district were given three day emergency food supplies by the Trust's foodbanks between April 2016 and March 2017.
Harrogate Foodbank Project Manager Linda Macrow, said: "These figures don't surprise us, it is a sad reality that people get into difficulties and need emergency food supplies.
"I think it is down to the cost of living nowadays. We are seeing that Universal Credit is being a bit of an issue, with a six week delay from signing up to getting the support.
"And with bills coming in, that can put people in a really vulnerable position.
"People of all ages come to the foodbank and they might be there because they've been made redundant, have an unexpected illness, or have problems with their benefits."
The research has shown that half of people using foodbanks said their incomes were “unsteady” from week to week, with four out of five people admitting they skipped meals and went without food as they could not afford to feed themselves.
Alec Lutton, who helps to run the Ripon foodbank, said: "In Ripon I think some of the people coming to the foodbank find it difficult travelling to the job centre in Harrogate if they have children and have additional pressures on them getting there, which can be a barrier to benefits.
"At the foodbank we look after people and help them to get back on track. This is an issue that very sadly affects all age groups."
The Chief Executive of the Trussell Trust, David McAuley, said: “This pioneering research confirms to us what those volunteers have been telling us.
“Every day they are meeting people trying to cope with low, insecure incomes and rising prices that mean even the smallest unexpected expense can leave them destitute and hungry, be that an unexpected bill, bereavement or the loss of income caused by benefit delay.
“Particularly concerning are the very high numbers of disabled people or people with mental health problems needing foodbanks. These findings reaffirm how vital the work of foodbanks and generosity of donors is, but are also a clear challenge to the new Government to do more to stop people ending up in crisis in the first place.”
The research, detailing for the first time the sheer scale of families in crisis, found that half households questioned said they had been hit by a recent “income shock” such as increases in housing or food costs. Half said they could not afford heating or toiletries. A similar number of households included a disabled person.
Dr Rachel Loopstra, an associate member of the Department of Sociology, University of Oxford, who was lead author of the report, said it were felt worse by those with extremely low incomes and where meeting basic needs is an ongoing struggle.
“Our survey data shows how people using foodbanks are unable to ensure they always have enough food to eat because their incomes are too low and too insecure.”
A Government spokesman said: “We’re helping millions of households meet the everyday cost of living and keep more of what they earn while also spending over £90bn a year in extra support for those who need it.
“Employment is the best route out of poverty and, with record numbers of people - including disabled people - now in work, we’ve made great progress.
“But we want to go even further to help ordinary families.”
The highest numbers of emergency food parcels issued were in Leeds North and West, with 8,054, and Leeds South and East, with 7,717.
Donations to the 'Bread of Life' Ripon foodbank can be made at Community House on Sharow View, and donations can be dropped off for the Harrogate foodbank at the town's Waitrose store on Station Parade.