Whilst shopping at Otley Waitrose on Friday 28th June an Adel and Wharfedale Branch member found that the supermarket was providing floor space for Bradford Foodbank to collect customers’ donated provisions for distribution. After overcoming his initial surprise he experienced mixed emotions. First, he was pleased that he could take the opportunity to make a contribution to such an important charitable cause. His second emotion was of barely controlled anger that foodbanks had become such a necessary and significant part of our lives here and now in wealthy Britain.
The Bradford Foodbank is one of many organised by the Trussell Trust, a Christian charity that serves people whether they have a faith or not.
The Trust recently reported a 170% rise in numbers turning to foodbanks in the last 12 months. The Trust comments:
Trussell Trust foodbanks have seen the biggest rise in numbers given emergency food since the charity began in 2000. Almost 350,000 people have received at least three days emergency food from Trussell Trust foodbanks during the last 12 months, nearly 100,000 more than anticipated and close to triple the number helped in 2011-12.
This dramatic rise in foodbank usage predates April’s welfare reforms, which could see numbers increase further in 2013-14.
346,992 people received a minimum of three days emergency food from Trussell Trust foodbanks in 2012-13, compared to 128,697 in 2011-12 and up from 26,000 in 2008-09. Of those helped in 2012-13, 126,889 (36.6 percent) were children.
Incomes are being squeezed to breaking point. We’re seeing people from all kinds of backgrounds turning to foodbanks: working people coming in on their lunch-breaks, mums who are going hungry to feed their children, people whose benefits have been delayed and people who are struggling to find enough work. It’s shocking that people are going hungry in 21st century Britain.’
Who uses Foodbanks?
The Trussell Trust’s report identifies users as follows:
– 4% due to homelessness;
– 30% were referred due to benefit delay;
– 18% low income;
– 15% benefit changes (up from 11% in 2011-12).
– Other reasons included domestic violence, sickness, refused crisis loans, debt and unemployment. The majority of people turning to foodbanks were working age families.
So what is to be done?
The Trussell Trust’s Executive Chairman Chris Mould is correct in arguing that all political parties ‘need to recognise the real extent of UK food poverty and create fresh policies that better address its underlying causes.’
However, whilst only the Coalition is in a position to act now it seems to be in denial.
On Monday 1st July, Lord Freud, a minister for welfare reform in the Department of Work and Pensions and ex-investment banker, sought to distance government benefit policies from the rise in the number of Foodbanks and their users. Lord Freud was asked in the House of Lords by the Bishop of Truro whether ministers conceded a link between the benefits system and food bank use. The Lord claimed that it was difficult to “make the causal connections” and that “It is difficult to know which came first – supply or demand.”
Lord Freud’s comments are disingenuous in the extreme, so much so that even the Prime Minister has not been prepared to defend them. It is clear that this Government minister does not have a clue about what is going on. Perhaps he, like the rest of us, should read Walking the Breadline: The scandal of food poverty in 21st-century Britain. Published at the end of May this year, this report, jointly published by Church Action on Poverty and Oxfam demonstrates that despite the UK being the seventh richest country in the world, many people are going hungry.
Church Action on Poverty and Oxfam understand, even if the minister doesn’t, that cuts and changes to the welfare system are the most common reason for people resorting to food banks. This growth in food aid demonstrates that the social safety net is failing. Church Action on Poverty and Oxfam believe that everyone should have enough income to feed themselves and their families with dignity, and that foodbanks should not replace the social safety net – and we agree.
This is why we are recommending, among other things, that the government conducts an urgent inquiry into the relationship between welfare changes and cuts, and the growth of food poverty.
The case offered by the Trussell Trust, Church Action on Poverty and Oxfam is irrefutable and action is urgent. If you agree – why not contact one of the charities involved.
The Trussell Trust is looking to open FOUR new foodbanks in the Leeds area. Leeds North will be opening soon, but you can already make donations.
The Bradford Foodbank can be contacted online or directly at Bradford Foodbank, Jubilee Centre, Jermyn Street (off Stott Hill), Bradford, BD1 4EJ (Tel: 01274 409 562).
And if you share our views of this situation – tell us about it.