A charity helping to feed poverty-stricken families is making a desperate appeal for food donations as it is revealed that more than 37,000 youngsters in Bradford are now living below the breadline.

Last month Bradford Metropolitan Food Bank handed out 308 parcels – the most since it started in 2004 and more than six times the monthly amount handed out two years ago.

And schools in some areas of the district worst affected by poverty are now holding cookery lessons on a Friday so pupils have a meal to take home with them.

Councillor Ralph Berry , the executive member on Bradford Council for children’s services, illustrated the divide across Council wards with 68 per cent of children living in poverty in Bowling and Barkerend compared to one per cent in Ilkley .

He said the Child Poverty Board, set up three years ago and of which he is chairman, was tackling issues around deprivation and the impact of welfare reforms. He said: “The situation outrages me when we see policies making the wealthy wealthier. Schools are ensuring children have enough carbohydrates and are ensuring they take part in cooking-related activities so they can take meals home on a Friday.

“Some 1,800 children will also be affected by families having to move to smaller properties because of benefit cuts. We are extremely concerned about this. Many of those in poverty are also affected by changes to Working Tax Credits.”

Bradford Food Bank is appealing to supermarkets and the public to help keep it supplied to enable it to respond to requests for help from the Probation Service, Citizen’s Advice Bureau and housing associations.

Ken Leach, its co-ordinator, said: “We are desperate for donations because the amount of parcels has gone up so much. 308 is the highest it has ever been – three years ago we were giving out 40 to 50 parcels a month. People are struggling and benefits are being cut and unemployment is very high and people just haven’t got the money.

“I wish we did not need a food bank but the reality is people are hungry and there are people out there who need feeding.

“We rely on donations to survive and are hoping that the Harvest Festival season will result in a lot of donations from lots of schools and churches.”

Alex Bohdanowicz, of Bradford & Airedale Citizens Advice Bureau, said that although it was predominantly an advice centre, it had been handing out parcels to people with nothing.

“Since April there has been a reduction in entitlement to Working Tax Credits and reduction in the amount of housing benefit people are entitled to,” she said. “It saddens me that we are living in a society where people on the lowest income who are working or unable to work are struggling to survive. We give out food parcels every week and our advice centre is an advice centre, not a food bank.

“We have been coming across people who have no food much more commonly in the last couple of years.”