A food stamps scheme has been launched after rising poverty and falling incomes left people struggling to feed themselves.
Wakefield Rent Deposit Scheme, which helps vulnerable people move into rented accomodation, is issuing £5 food cards to help people who have to choose between eating and paying the rent.
Tenants can use the pre-paid cards to buy fruit and vegetables from Wakefield Market.
Ben Aldam, project officer at the Rent Deposit Scheme, said: “It has been identified that one of the things people are cutting back on is food, particularly fresh fruit and vegetables, in order to keep their tenancies.”
Mr Aldam said research showed that 27 per cent of young adults on Job Seeker’s Allowance ate less than two meals a day, and 37 per cent never had fresh fruit and vegetables.
Rising poverty has led to a surge in referrals to the Rent Deposit Scheme, which helps homeless people including those with mental health and substance misuse problems.
Demand for help is set to rise further when cuts to benefits come into force next month, leaving thousands of benefits claimants on lower incomes.
Staff at the scheme, based on Market Street, secured funding from Wakefield Council and Esh Community Trust to make the project possible.
After a successful pilot project, they plan to issue around 325 of the cards to some of the district’s most vulnerable people.
Mr Aldam said: “Hard to reach and vulnerable clients are the least likely to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.
“This scheme improves the health of clients because if they are under financial stress that can cause problems with their mental health.
“It also helps to deliver a healthy eating message.”
Peter, one of the Rent Deposit Scheme’s service users, said he needs to eat regularly because he is diabetic.
But he could not afford it without a food card.
Peter said: “It has improved my health and keeping my blood sugar levels stable.
“They are helping me get back on my feet. Otherwise I couldn’t afford it.”
The Rent Deposit Scheme has teamed up with Mark Venebles, who runs a stall at the outdoor market on Union Street, to launch the food cards.
Mr Venebles said: “Everybody needs some help from time to time and we thought this was a good way of supporting people in the community.”