Wycombe’s Labour party has said it is “shocked but not surprised” that people in Wycombe are struggling to access food after a damning report found the area was one of the worst in England for food poverty.

It comes after the University of Sheffield published research which found the former Wycombe district is one of the areas worst hit by food insecurity – where people struggle to access food or cannot afford to buy food despite being hungry.

A Wycombe Labour spokesman said: “We have been aware of the issue since Early 2020, when Wycombe District Councillors and former Mayors Trevor Snaith and Khalil Ahmed set up the Wycombe Food Hub, to address food poverty in Wycombe.

“Despite the Wycombe Food Hub receiving no funding from the Conservative-run council, relying entirely on the generosity of volunteers and local businesses, it’s been a huge success – around 400 customers pass through its doors each week, and food is also delivered to key workers and NHS staff. The hub needs no referrals – which can prove to be a barrier to receiving help.

“At Wycombe Food Hub, anyone who turns up at the door will be helped, and there’s a basic bag of essential groceries available free of charge.”

Wycombe MP Steve Baker said last week he was “appalled” at the report, calling it “shocking” and saying it was a “cause for deep sorrow”.

Almost 30 per cent of people struggle to access food in Wycombe, while 14 per cent are estimated to be hungry.

The area also has high estimates for numbers of people who are worried about having enough food (22 per cent).

The Wycombe Labour spokesman added: “We are hugely supportive of Wycombe Food Hub, One Can Trust, other Wycombe Food Banks and their volunteers. Their fantastic efforts to help the local community are really appreciated.

“The sad thing is, there should not be any need for food banks in this day and age. This is a scandal.

“The brutal austerity cuts to the social security system have helped push more families into relative poverty, and as a result, food bank usage has increased dramatically – Britain’s biggest food bank network had just 57 outlets open under the last Labour government in 2009/10.

“Now there are over 2,000, including more than 600 independent food banks.

“The pandemic has also led to an increase in food poverty – food bank network The Trussell Trust has reported a 123% increase in food bank usage compared to the same time five years ago.

“This situation is likely to worsen once furlough ends and the government removes the £20 uplift to National Credit.

“It’s deeply worrying that Boris Johnson’s “levelling up” agenda does not appear to include any initiatives to tackle inequality that exists in the South-East, as well as the North of England.

“We are concerned that we could miss out on funding that’s absolutely vital if we’re to tackle growing problems such as food poverty in Wycombe.

“We’d welcome a future where there’s no need for food banks. Sadly, however, under the current administration, there’s more need for them than ever.”