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Tuesday, 11 November 2014

The usage of Foodbanks continues to grow

Foodbank use for south west children 'quadruples since 2011'

Food bank parcels
The Trussell Trust runs a charity which runs 28 Foodbanks across the South West

Lying deep amongst the news stories the last 12 months, is the ongoing story which refuses to go away. Largely ignored by the press and television media, possibly by accident but more likely to be on the directions of some mysterious government department, the continuing scandal of the increasing number of people reliant on food bank charities is the subject which the Department of Work and Pensions and various other government departments and of course the ConDem Coalition government, would really like to go away and by adopting a policy of “if we ignore the situation for long enough the problem will cease to exist, in any case the usual charities can provide a short-term solution to the short-term problem”, they can pretend that the scandal of people in the United Kingdom, having to rely on charity to feed their families is no more than a passing phenomena, blown out of all proportion by “activists” and left wing politician seeking to make capital.
The reality of course, is completely different. As I have mentioned in previous blogs on the subject, the number of people reliant on food banks has continued to increase over the last 10 years and is significantly increasing over the past 24 months as cuts and delays are made to welfare payments and “caps” are imposed on benefit payments. This is a 21st Century scandal for which the politicians must take the full responsibility and we, as a nation should feel shame for allowing this to happen. According to latest figures from the Trussel Trust, the number of people in the United Kingdom who now rely on charity to put food on the table for the families stands in excess of 900,000.By any measure this figure is a conservative estimate as more than one charity provides this valuable service.
As we put our small food contribution into the shopping trolley, provided for the purpose of collecting food for the local food bank, at our local Asda, it is noticeable how over recent months, the contents of the food trolley seem to be lower than was the case previously. This of course may be due in part, to the fact that people who normally make contributions to the food bank collection points, are themselves feeling the pinch of continued wage restraint unending cuts, and the seemingly endless government drive for austerity. I recently heard a television presenter interviewing a member of the stop food waste campaigns, ask a question regarding the supermarket phenomenon of buy one get one free which invariably leads to more waste food going into the bin. The response surprised me a little, but on reflection seems an eminently sensible suggestion. The campaigner responded that he was in fact in favour of the “buy one get one free” offers in supermarkets, as the “free” one could be placed into the trolley for collection by the food bank. In this way some deserving family gains the benefit of the contribution, and the waste of the extra item is eliminated.
One of the hallmarks of any civilised society, is the way it treated children. From the continuing rise in child poverty, to the recent revelations and enquiries into child sexual abuse, society has a responsibility to protect children and to ensure that the well-being of children is of the utmost importance. It is disturbing mental note, that a recent report on BBC television, has revealed that the number of children being fed through food banks in south-west England, has quadrupled over the space of the last three years. Statistics from the Trussel Trust, reveal that the average of 430 children per month has risen to more than 1600 in less than three years. This figure of course represents only those children living in Cornwall Devon and Gloucestershire, but it is not unreasonable to suppose that this increase in usage is repeated throughout the other regions of the country. As in many other situations, the effects and impact of circumstances where children are involved is somehow magnified in the minds of responsible adults, to the extent that many people feel that more measures are required to alleviate the problem. Also with the involvement of children I would suggest that the feelings of shame and indignation amongst ordinary people, are intensified with the resultant hostility towards those in government and in government departments who can be deemed to be responsible.
Interviewed on the BBC South programme “Inside out”, a young single mother Lynne Tonkins, visibly distressed at the situation, wondered how she would face the next few weeks before during and after the Christmas holidays. 

Lynne Tonkins, a single mother from Cornwall, said going to a foodbank was a last resort.
"I felt as any mum would feel, ashamed that they can't support their children in the ways necessary and we're talking about the basic need of food alone and I found that very difficult," she said.

It is a problem which will be facing hundreds if not thousands of families around the country. Between now and December 31, no more than six weeks away, perhaps we should all consider what we can do practically, to help in some small way to lessen the problem. Perhaps we can find a few extra tins or packets, toilet rolls, nappies, biscuits or any other commodity which can contribute in some way to giving some family, particularly where those families have young children, the Christmas holiday period which may be less bleak than last year's Christmas. Remember the buy one get one free example, of which there will certainly be many filling the shells of supermarkets around the country. Where there is a suitable collection point for the food bank, please give as generously as you feel able. Should your supermarket not operate such a food bank collection facility, as is the case when we last visited our local Tesco store, albeit that was some months ago, perhaps you should ask the customer services in the supermarket (a) why are they not allowing such a collection, and (b) will they now consider providing a trolley for the local food bank to make regular collections.

A local Foodbank.

This is a problem which will not go away, regardless of how long the press and television media will ignore it. Nor for that matter will those voices in government who suggest that people use food banks as a result of their own actions and choices and consequently are not deserving of any additional help or assistance. It is for us as a nation to impress upon our elected representatives that we will not tolerate their continuing arrogance, patronising and divisive austerity measures in pursuit of a political dogma which belongs in the 19th century or even the first part of the 20th century.