FIGURES showing thousands of Stockton people are going hungry has been branded “appalling” and an “indictment of our society”. 

Reports from Stockton Council have estimated 14,000 adults and 4,000 children in the borough live in homes without food security.

A review looking to tackle food poverty has also shown food bank use in Billingham, Hardwick and Norton has seen a 50 per cent rise in two years. 

Council leaders said the figures were appalling at a meeting last week. 

“It’s just sad that we’ve got 14,000 estimated in food poverty and 4,000 children don’t have food security,” said Cllr Lisa Evans. “That breaks my heart.”

Cllr Ann McCoy said she was shocked by the number of people receiving food parcels. 

She added: “When you add those figures up and see in two years those accessing food parcels has gone from just over 7,700 to 11,550, that’s appalling. There are people desperate for food.

“We have to remember those aren’t the total figures either, because there are older people who for whatever reason don’t feel able to go to foodbanks because of the stigma. These are people in desperation.”

Cllr Jim Beall, cabinet member for culture, leisure and health, believed the figures were an “indictment of our society”. 

He added: “That we’re in a position where we’ve got food poverty, which is a euphemism for hunger and insecurity, is almost institutional neglect of our population. Although the council is not set up to eradicate it, I think we can be the leader through this process and through the leader of the council.

“But we know the answer is simple really on a national level – improve benefits to people so they can afford food. And improve wages to the lower paid and the benefits around people working as lots of people get benefits in work because of low pay.”

Labour cabinet members shared their thoughts after agreeing on a new strategy to try and tackle some of the hunger problems across Stockton by working with food banks, charities, and other groups.

Encouraging schools to take up free school meals and a £60,000 boost to the “Stockton Food Power Network” to tackle hunger in the borough was also part of the plan. 

Cllr Evans told the meeting how she’d seen people queuing with pushchairs and young children for an hour before the Arlington Park eco-shop opened last week. 

She backed the new strategy.

The cabinet member said: “It’s not something we should be doing but it’s something we need to do because sadly, those food inequalities are still there today.”

Cllr McCoy also hailed council teams who’d helped children who were “almost starving”. 

“These figures will undoubtedly increase with the changes to Universal Credit,” she added.  

“People are going to have even less money – and when their bills go up, and their electricity gets more expensive, people are going to be in dire straits.

“This strategy is something we should be sadly proud of in that we’re doing something for people in this borough who are absolutely desperate.”