THE harsh reality of facing Christmas during the cost-of-living crisis has been laid bare by foodbank bosses who have warned the town faces its busiest-ever festive period for handing out urgent supplies to hungry residents – including a record-breaking amount of children.

The Trussell Trust, which supports distribution hubs at locations in Goldthorpe, Wombwell, Athersley, Darfield, Penistone, Hoyland, Royston, Worsbrough Common and Barnsley town centre, warned that its projected figures – based on previous Christmases and this year as a whole – will be higher than ever in the coming weeks.

According to latest analysis, 2022 saw a 16 per cent increase in demand, with two-thirds of all food parcels being sent to families with children.

Mid-year statistics for this year are also at ‘record-breaking’ levels, with the next three months set to be the busiest yet.

Hundreds of food parcels will leave warehouses in the coming days – and those in need have been reminded that venues will be closed on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, December 27, December 30, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

Charity bosses believe the situation is unlikely to change in the coming months with the ‘stark’ new data leading them to forecast that foodbanks in their network will distribute more than a million emergency food parcels nationally between this month and February 2024 – the equivalent of providing a parcel every eight seconds this winter.

Chief executive Emma Revie said: “These statistics are extremely alarming.

“An increasing number of children are growing up in families facing hunger, forced to turn to foodbanks to survive.

“A generation is growing up believing that it’s normal to see a foodbank in every community – this is not right.

“Rising hunger and hardship have devastating consequences for individuals and our communities, damage the nation’s health and hold back our economy.

“People in work, as well as people who cannot work, are increasingly being pushed into debt and forced to turn to a foodbank to survive.

“That’s why the government must build on its work to protect people from increasingly severe hardship.

“The need for foodbanks in December is increasing steeply – the number of food supplies given to people last year mark a ten per cent rise from December 2016, for example.

“Christmas is supposed to be a time for joy but what we’re seeing is the festive period becoming increasingly stressful for more and more people.”

Stephanie Peacock, MP for Barnsley East, recently visited Tesco’s winter foodbank in Stairfoot to make a donation.

The scheme opens every year towards the end of November for donations to help those who might be struggling this winter, partnering with the Barnsley Foodbank Partnership and the Trussell Trust.

She added: “I was pleased to pop into Tesco in Stairfoot to visit their winter foodbank and make a donation.

“This is a really successful scheme and is a great way for members of the community to help those who might be struggling with the high costs of winter.

“Thank you to everyone who has been involved in organising the winter foodbank, and to everyone who has kindly donated.

“Families in Barnsley and across the country are struggling under the strain of poverty and food insecurity.

“With more than 15,000 children living in poverty in Barnsley and foodbanks reporting a 46 per cent rise in children needing food parcels, the work is vital in our community.

“In Barnsley East, 25 per cent of under-15s live in poverty – a shocking statistic – and a quarter of children in our local area are growing up in poverty.

“The Trussell Trust have raised concerns about people falling into chronic destitution.

“Families who were struggling before the cost-of-living crisis are unable to cut costs any more than they already have.

“Charities and local groups do incredible work to support their communities but this isn’t their mess to fix.”