Foodbank use across Bradford remains at sky high levels due to benefit sanctions, low wages, zero-hour work contracts and high living costs.
Luckily for many of those in need, local resident, 66-year-old Lashman Singh remains on hand with the Bradford Metropolitan Foodbank to feed tens of thousands of households across the city.
Speaking from inside the empty church where piles of boxes are stacked up along the empty pews, he said: “I first got into this line of work when I set up the Bradford Curry Project 24 years ago in 1992.
“There weren’t many charities out there doing that kind of thing when I set that up so I researched with people at the day shelter to find out other ways to help.
“I found that everyone had to come to a city centre base of some description to recieve help. That’s when I decided to start up my own foodbank before it had even become the norm.”
For his day job, Lashman fits woodburning stoves but all his spare time is spent inside the unused St Mary’s Church on East Parade, boxing up essential items like peanut butter, dried pasta, baked beans and sugar for the needy.
“12 years ago we were doing around 110 parcels a month, if we were lucky. Now, we’re talking between 900 to 1,100 parcels on average. Before, this would have been unthinkable,” Lashman explained.
“It’s deplorable really. For all of us. People are having to pay 25 per cent on their council tax, the bedroom tax is another factor.
“When universal credit sets in, heaven help us. The reality is that if people have grown up with parents on benefits and then they are on benefits themselves, they become part of a cycle of benefits.
“When they get £3,000 in a lump sum going into their account, some people won’t know how to manage that type of money.”
Lashman said that there are ‘no questions asked’ at the foodbank that he runs, rather he works with agencies across the city to determine where to distribute the goods.
“The judgement has already been made by the person who is coming for the food, whether they are eligible or not,” he added.
“I’m sure that in every organisation there might be a couple of bad apples, but so what? 95 per cent of the people we work with are genuine.”
In 2014, Bradford Metropolitan foodbank gave out 9,981 food bags, a shocking increase in demand of over 450 per cent.
“As soon as we pack stuff, it goes out as the demand is so high,” Lashman added.
With regards to foodbanks in Bradford, a Government spokesman has recently said: “Reasons for foodbank use are complex so it is misleading to link them to any one thing.
“This Government is determined to move to a higher-wage society… the new National Living Wage benefits over one million workers directly this year, and we’re also spending £80 billion on working-age benefits to ensure a strong safety net for those who need it most.
“The vast majority of benefits are processed on time and the number of sanctions have actually gone down.”
Despite reasuurances from authorities that things ‘will get better’ Lashman remains unconvinced.
He says more action needs to be taken now to stop people going hungry, and urged for someone to set up a shelter for the most vulnerable in society.
“We haven’t got a shelter in this town where people can feel safe,” he said.
“The only shelter that’s available is with ‘Inn Churches’ which depend on the weather outside.
“People need shelter all the year round, not just in the winter. People need to feel safe.”