On 2 December a foodbank opened in Otley.

Last week a foodbank opened in Leeds West.

In September one opened in North Leeds, at Moortown Methodist Church.

Three foodbanks in close proximity in less than three months. One in Leeds NW, one on its borders. The scandal of food poverty is well and truly among us.

Longer queue now - 500,000 - and rising
Longer queue now – 500,000 – and rising

The Otley foodbank is run by local volunteers – and we’ve been advertising the series of gigs at the Otley Labour rooms held to assist in its funding. It will operate through local community organisations using a voucher and referral system.
The Leeds North and West ones are Trussell Trust operations. The Trussell Trust runs a network of foodbanks across the country. And it has compiled figures about their growing use.
It estimates that over 500,000 people have used its foodbanks since April – and that, of course, is a figure which does not include the numbers going to foodbanks run by other organisations, like that in Otley.

The Trust’s executive, Chris Mould, was scathing about George Osborne’s claims about rising prosperity in his Autumn Statement.
“We can’t ignore the reality for millions of British citizens who are facing a tougher winter than ever.
“Real wages are down, the cost of food is rising rapidly and so is the cost of heating your home. Recovery is not filtering down.
“Low-income families are teetering on a financial knife-edge,”

There’s no sign of recovery for the poorest.

And not much for very large sections of the UK’s people, either, as the Joseph Rowntree trust highlighted in a report this week.
According to their ‘Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion report for 2013’

over half of those living in poverty in the UK have a job.
For the first time EVER more than half of those living in poverty are IN WORK
[And remember, a very significant proportion of the half who don’t have a job are pensioners.]

– the number of people in low-paid jobs has risen – 5 million people are now paid less than the living wage.

– average incomes have fallen by over 8% since 2008.

We’re seeing WORKING POVERTY – and on a scale which is unprecedented in recent times.
And since poverty is measured by average incomes, which are falling, the figures actually mask how bad the situation is.
If we still judged poverty by the standards of 2008, there would be another 2 million in poverty now, according to the Rowntree report.

Julia Unwin, chief executive of the JRF, told the Daily Telegraph: “Hard work is not working. We have a labour market that lacks pay and protection, with jobs offering precious little security and paltry wages that are insufficient to make ends meet.”

Recently a young woman who had experienced food poverty first hand launched a petition on Change.org. It was known as Jack’s Petition – and it called for a Parliamentary debate on the causes of UK hunger and why the use of Foodbanks is growing. At the time of writing that petition had reached over 133,000 signatures. There’s still time to add yours in – here – if you, like Jack, can’t understand how people can need to use foodbanks in the seventh richest country in the world.

Chris Mould praised the public support for Jack Monroe’s petition, saying, “It proves that ordinary people are deeply concerned about the distressing poverty they’re seeing in their communities”.
And he also praised Labour’s response.
He was “delighted” at Labour’s announcement of an Opposition Day debate on UK hunger on 18 December, labelling it “an important step in paying this urgent issue the attention it deserves’.

Food poverty is a scandal, the need for foodbanks in the UK in the early twenty first century is a scandal – and the Otley foodbank brings that scandal right on to our own doorstep – food poverty here in Leeds North West.

The skivers and scroungers rhetoric of this Coalition Government is another scandal – aimed at demonising the poor.

But the people of this country are too decent to buy the Coalition’s self-serving rhetoric.

If there is a stronger economy– and there are questions about how real and sustainable the ‘recovery’ is – it’s certainly not producing a fairer society.

3 Foodbanks in Leeds in 3 months says it all.


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