Nicknamed England’s largest village, Sheffield is home to the friendliest of folk. It’s not just about saying Ey Up! and asking about the weather; Sheffield people actively contribute to their communities and help thousands of people have better, more fulfilling and successful lives. Feeding people is a significant part of this work, from food pantries to social eating spaces. Communities will always strive to feed everyone; helping each other is what humans are made to do, but no one should be forced to rely on charity to feed themselves in 21st Century Britain.
Sheffield’s voluntary and community sector (VCS) is impressive, with over 3,000 organisations, 120,000 volunteers, and 30,000 paid staff producing goods and services worth £287m. However, the rise of voluntary action is due to over a decade-long scheme of cuts to public services pushed by the government, which has forced people into poverty and removed safety nets. Even a UN rapporteur in 2019 said that the UK’s “austerity experiment” has forced millions into poverty and homelessness. Since then, things have only got worse.
Almost three million people received emergency food from the Trussell Trust in 2022/23, the UK’s main foodbank supplier, compared with fewer than 26,000 in 2008/09. That’s an 11,438.5% increase. In 2022/2023, over 2 million children were eligible for free school meals, up from 1.1 million in 2015/2016. Households in the United Kingdom have experienced a significant fall in living standards since late 2021. As of January 2023, 92% of UK households reported that their cost of living had increased compared with a year earlier. The crisis is even more acute for the poorest UK households, which typically spend most of their income on food and housing costs.
Food is vital to survival and a right everyone deserves, regardless of our circumstances. Food should be affordable and easily located, but it must also be nutritious, culturally appropriate and delicious! A good diet is essential to maintain our community’s physical and mental health, reduce social isolation and ensure our neighbourhoods and people thrive. From food banks to social eating places, friendly Sheffielders ensure thousands stay fed in their communities.
The Sheffield Food Bank Network is a connection of over 20 food banks across Sheffield and the surrounding areas offering a range of services, from food parcels, hot meals, tea & coffee, warm hubs, support & advice, and a free place to rest and chat to people. Most food banks require a referral from a GP, housing association, social worker or Citizens Advice Sheffield. Contact one of these organisations or your local food bank, who can help with referrals.
Here is a list of some of the incredible food banks in the Sheffield region: Burngreave Foodbank, Church on the Corner (Southey Green), Fir Vale Foodbank, Firth Park Foodbank, Gleadless Valley Foodbank, Grace Foodbank (Low Edges), Handsworth Foodbank, New Hope Foodbank (Killamarsh) S2 Food Bank: St Swinthuns, S20 Foodbank, S6 Foodbank, Spires Foodbank (Arbourthorne), St Saviours Food Bank (High Green), Stannington Food Bank, Stocksbridge Food Hub and The Campus Food Share (High Green).
However, food banks aren’t the only option when you can’t access food. A growing network of Sheffield food pantries and social eating spaces offer a wide selection of services, including accessible and affordable food.
While many may think a food pantry is the same as a food bank, they differ. Most food banks require a referral to attend, but food pantries are open to anyone. Food pantry users may pay an annual membership fee and/or a small donation every time they visit the pantry. Some food pantries in Sheffield include Food Works Handsworth, the Hadfield Institute, Longley 4 Greens Community Centre, Now Church, PXI Parson Cross, and St Mary’s Church.
Social eating spaces also offer an alternative to food banks, offering hot meals for free, on a pay-what-you-can basis or at a reduced cost. Social eating spaces provide a fantastic place for a nourishing meal, but they also combat social isolation and improve physical and mental health. Evidence from the University of Oxford states: “Those who eat socially more often feel happier and are more satisfied with life, are more trusting of others, are more engaged with their local communities, and have more friends they can depend on for support.” Cafe On The Campus – Community Cafe, Food Works Sharrow, Food Works Upperthorpe, FoodCycle Sheffield Broomhall and Open Kitchen are some social eating spaces in Sheffield right now.
The food pantries, food banks and social eating spaces mentioned above are listed on VAS’s Food Provision map, an ever-expanding list of organisations within Sheffield that provide access to food and support those in financial hardship. These food spaces are vital for many in our city, and VAS is doing fantastic work to support them and other community-led organisations.
For more info on food options in your local area, visit the VAS Food Provision map online to find locations: https://www.vas.org.uk/sheffield-food-provision-map or ShefFood’s Local Food Provision Page. Citizens Advice Sheffield offers free, confidential advice on various subjects, including providing food bank referrals, debt and housing. Visit their website for more information: https://citizensadvicesheffield.org.uk/ or call 0808 278 7820.