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UK hunger survey to measure food insecurity.

Exclusive : Campaigners hail move to gauge number of households struggling to put food on the table


The government is to introduce an official measure of how often low-income families across the UK skip meals or go hungry because they cannot afford to buy enough food, the Guardian can reveal.

A national index of food insecurity is to be incorporated into an established UK-wide annual survey run by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) that monitors household incomes and living standards.

Campaigners, who have been calling for the measure for three years, said the move was “a massive step forward” that would provide authoritative evidence of the extent and causes of hunger in the UK. They say food insecurity is strongly linked to poverty caused by austerity and welfare cuts and is driving widening health inequality.

Food insecurity is generally defined as experiencing hunger, the inability to secure food of sufficient quality and quantity to enable good health and participation in society, and cutting down on food because of a lack of money.

The decision, which took campaigners by surprise, was revealed at an informal meeting on Tuesday attended by the DWP, the Office for National Statistics, Public Health England and the Scottish and Welsh governments, as well as a number of food poverty charities.

Ministers have for years resisted calls to bring England into line with the US and Canada by measuring food insecurity. Critics said this was to avoid shedding unwanted light on the impact of welfare policy and the public health consequences of being unable to eat regularly or healthily.

The new measures closely reflect those called for in a private member’s bill being piloted through the Commons by Labour MP Emma Lewell-Buck. She welcomed the move but said urgent action to address the causes of hunger was now needed.

“It is a real pity that it has taken this long to be enacted, as every single day that has passed has been a day that another person has gone hungry. This positive step forward should not be used as an excuse for government inaction whilst this important data is being gathered,” said Lewell-Buck.

The most recent best estimate of UK food insecurity, published by the Food Foundation in 2016 using UN data, suggested that in 2014 more than 8 million people lived in households that struggled to put food on the table, with more than half regularly going a whole day without eating.

The DWP will add 10 questions about food buying and eating habits to its annual Family Resources Survey, which will be sent to 20,000 UK households in April. The data will be reported publicly in March 2021. Experts say the findings will help refine understanding of what drives hunger and food insecurity.

The questions, which are based on US measures of food insecurity, will ask whether and how often households skipped meals, were unable to afford healthy food and went hungry or lost weight because they did not have enough money to buy sufficient food.

The change of direction on measuring food insecurity comes just weeks after Amber Rudd, the work and pensions secretary, conceded that the rollout of universal credit had contributed to an increase in food bank use, reversing previous ministerial claims that the two were not linked.

The DWP said: “We always ensure we use the best possible evidence base for making policy. Building a better understanding of household food needs will help us to ensure we’re targeting support to those who need it most, so we’ve worked closely with stakeholders to develop tools to help us best collect this information.”

Anna Taylor, the executive director of the Food Foundation thinktank, said: “We’ve known for too long now that a disturbing number of people in the UK don’t have access to enough nutritious food, but our knowledge has been too patchy to identify real solutions. In the fifth-richest economy in the world, that’s a social justice disaster.”

Niall Cooper, the director of Church Action on Poverty and chair of End Hunger UK, said: “It was over three years ago that End Hunger UK coalition members first called on the government to ‘count the hungry’. So we’re delighted, three years later, that food insecurity levels are finally going to be measured regularly.”

A Food Foundation study last year found almost 4 million children in the UK lived in households that would struggle to afford to buy enough fruit, vegetables, fish and other healthy foods to meet official nutrition guidelines.
Food bank use up 15 per cent in South East,

" Callous " austerity measures, Universal Credit, low incomes and an ever-higher cost of living are contributing to a continued rise in the use of food banks in the South East of England and across the UK. Keith Taylor, Green MEP for the South East, explores the issue in his new report.



The use of food banks in the South East of England has risen dramatically over 2017, according to a new report from Green MEP Keith Taylor states.

Published today (Monday 4 March), the report, titled ‘Escalating Hunger in the South East’, reveals that from 2017 to 2018, there was a 15 per cent increase overall in the number of people making use of food banks in Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex, Kent and the Isle of Wight.

Buckinghamshire saw the biggest increase, with the number of emergency food parcels handed out going up by 83 per cent from 2017 to 2018. Only the Isle of Wight reduced its figures (by 15 per cent). And the picture is reflected across the UK, with the latest figures from food bank charity Trussell Trust showing that there has been a 13 per cent increase in the handout of emergency food supplies from its food banks.

Taylor’s publication builds on 2017’s Escalating Hunger report, which showed that from 2013 to 2017, food bank dependency in the South East rose by 19.9 per cent. Since then, the rollout of Universal Credit, as well as continued austerity measures and cuts to public services, have contributed to an even steeper rise in the use of food banks in the last year alone.


Trussell Trust data shows that the main reasons people are accessing food banks are low income, delays to benefits, changes to benefits and debt. While unemployment in the UK is at its lowest since 1975, according to the Office for National Statistics, at four per cent – something Prime Minister Theresa May has been keen to shout about – more people than ever are in zero hours contracts that do not provide a guaranteed income.

In addition to the increasing use of food banks, the number of people sleeping rough on the streets in England has risen by 165 per cent since 2010. Although 2018 did see a marginal reduction in figures from the previous year, down by two per cent, the number of people sleeping rough in all the major cities went up. The London Borough of Enfield reported the highest change, with an increase of 797 per cent, going from nine people in 2017 to 78 in 2018.

Taylor, who has been Green MEP for the South East of England since 2010, said: "Ministers' punitive, mean-spirited and callous austerity, including the dismal Universal Credit reform and swingeing welfare cuts, has seen an 85 per cent rise in food bank reliance nationwide over the last five years.”

"In just the last twelve months, the government has overseen at least another 15 per cent rise in food bank dependency in my constituency alone. It is disgusting.”

Taylor continued: "Low income continues to be the single biggest reason why people are forced to seek emergency food aid. In the UK, there are 14 million people living in poverty. Four and a half million of those are children. And seven million are from working households. A shocking 60 per cent of Britons in poverty are working.

Taylor referenced the 2018 statement from Professor Philip Alston, United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, who described the Universal Credit system as ‘fast falling into Universal Discredit.’ Alston pointed to the five week delay for claimants between filing a successful claim and receiving their benefits, a delay that can often take up to 12 weeks and ‘pushes many who may already be in crisis into debt, rent arrears, and serious hardship, requiring them to sacrifice food or heat.’

"My report reveals a shameful side of the British economy that is deliberately hidden from view by the government,” Taylor concluded. ”As wages fail to keep pace with the cost of living, which is, in turn, pushed up by the continuing Brexit shambles, and as the government continues to push ahead with Universal Credit, food banks across the country are being forced into ‘crisis response’ mode."

"Food banks are a lifeline to those in need across the South East but they continue to be a stain on the Tories’ record on poverty. Some will say poverty isn’t political. Greens reject this. Poverty is clearly political and, for us, its elimination will always be a top priority."

The full report, ‘Escalating Hunger in the South East’, can be found on hosting site Scribd.
Demand on Moray Foodbank the largest it has ever been.



Changes to Universal Credit have contributed to make the demand on Moray Foodbank the largest it has ever been.

That’s according to Mairi McCallum, manager of the project on Elgin High Street, who said the facility supported 869 people in December compared to 500 in the same month in 2017. This continued into January, she said, when 459 people used the food bank compared to 290 the previous January.

According to Ms McCallum, the trend in Moray has been mirrored in other areas of the UK. She said it partly stems from six different benefits being moved to one single payment under the Universal Credit system.

She said: “In the lead-up to Christmas we experienced a much higher demand for support than ever before and we are very grateful to the Moray community for their amazing generosity, with not only their food and money donations, but for their time.

“We had a big increase in the number of people coming forward to help out at the food bank and this enabled us to deal with the high number of referrals received.

“Sadly, the new year is proving difficult for many people and this increase has continued into January. Universal Credit really seems to be having an impact and more people are coming to us because of this change in their benefit. We anticipate this trend to continue for the foreseeable future.”


The 2017/2018 financial year saw 2867 people supported by the food bank.

During this financial year, which ends on April 1, 3862 people in Moray have already used the service.

A Department of Working Pensions spokesperson said that under the new system, 96 per cent of claimants are paid in full and on time.

The spokesperson added: “The reasons for people using food banks are complex.

“Meanwhile for those who need extra support, the UK Government spends over £90 billion a year on support for those who need it, including those on a low income.”
Inside the food bank helping thousands of struggling families put food on the table.

Kelly Smith, who organises the operation of Durham Foodbank, said donation continue to go through the roof and demand rises.

It is one of the biggest food banks in the UK and has an army of 500 volunteers making sure struggling County Durham families are fed.

Food supply manager Kelly Smith, 40, has been at the helm of Durham Foodbank for two years and coordinates the distribution of the food from the main warehouse in Evangel Church Hall in Chester-le-Street.

Supplies are distributed to the county's 30 food banks, which make up into three-day food parcels, helping 17,300 people in 2017 alone.

Boxes are piled from floor to ceiling and wall to wall, as donations flood in from kind hearted residents who want to help, with 160 tonnes of food donated last year - up from 123 tonnes the year before.

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Kelly said: "Every year it [donations] go through the roof. Every year we think it's going to stop, going to plateau and then taper offer, that there will be no more need for food banks, but that never happens.

"The demand goes up and the donations go up, luckily, because can you imagine if the demand goes up and the donations don't.

"We had 160 tonnes last year, I've been here for two years, the first year there was 123 tonnes, so that quite an increase.

"It sounds like nothing, but out there every single space is filled to the max.

"We have huge demand, supplying 30 food banks county wide, with this the main distribution point.

"The food banks county wide will order weekly, direct to us, and we will make up the orders and send the, out.

"Everything that we get in is weighed in and weighed out. In terms of how much is going out, that has dramatically increased."

With Brexit looming, the future is uncertain so volunteers are starting to take precautions to ensure there will still be supplies.

"We have about seven tonnes off site at the moment in storage because we don't know what sort of impact Brexit is going to have," Kelly said.

But Kelly said the vast majority of donations from residents who buy items at their local supermarket and hopes donations will stay consistent in the wake of Brexit.

Donations are collect in baskets set up in several supermarkets, school, churches and businesses.

As the uncertainty rumbles on, it will be business as usual for the food bank, which recently secured a £3,000 grant from the Newcastle Building Society to cover its rental cost for 12 months.

Set up in late 2011 by the Durham Christian Partnership, Durham Foodbank client referrals from social workers, GPs, schools and Citizen Advice Bureaus, and distributes supplies on a weekly basis.

Kelly said: "We struggle to keep up now, I don't know how we have managed to get through all the work we have to do.

"We have loads of sorting to do. We have loads of orders to do, the orders can get to half a tonne each week for one food bank. It is a massive, massive demand over the county."

The main reason people need support from the service is delays and changes to their benefits, Kelly said.

She said: "Our red vouchers ask people why they use the food banks and nine times out of ten it is benefit changes.


"I know the Government will say it is not but we know it is. We talk to people who work with referral agencies, social services, citizens advice, they are telling us the person is using a food bank because of benefit changes.

"People are waiting between five and 12 weeks without Universal Credit. I couldn't survive, if you didn't have any pay, you couldn't survive, nobody could survive without money.

"That's the situation at the moment - I don't see it getting any better."

The county has areas of high deprivation, with mental health also an issue, Kelly said.

"I know it sounds easy to say to someone to go and sign on at that date and that time, but in practice it isn't easy for some people," Kelly said. "Then they have to budget monthly for Universal Credit, wow, it's not easy."

For 12 years, Kelly worked for the Citizens Advice Bureau and said working on the front line was difficult as she saw the toll the benefits system had on people.

"It is so emotionally draining on the front line, I think you struggle," she said. "It is appeal after appeal after appeal. You see the effect, when you see that person in front of you, you aren't talking about a statistic, you are talking about a person.

"I think when you tell someone a story A. it is getting to be the norm. Food banks are getting to be the norm, I said to the lady at Durham County Council the donations are staying high, she said 'That's good'. Well yeah, but we shouldn't have food banks at all.

"I think it is a double edge sword. It is good that we exist but it is sad we exist. There has got to be a better way to do it."

But improving the situation won't be an easy one, she said.

"I think the Government needs to start speaking to people. I want to get MPs here. Can you spend a couple of hours? Our vouchers tells us they are here for benefit delays. Come and see what it feels like.

"They don't know how it feels and I think it is what it feels like, I don't think they know.

"I think when you are sitting down there you don't necessarily feel it, it is easy to sign that policy, tick that box.

"I think it is more hearts and minds and I think they are a bit detached from it.

"The vouchers say what they say, they come from a reliable source, people who know what they are talking about. They will say it is not our fault food banks exist. I think they would said that it is because food banks exist that they use food banks, really?"

Kelly said that when only her husband was working they could have used a food bank but pride stopped her.

"It is not an easy thing," she said. "If they say people use food banks, you try and be a person using a food bank, imagine how that person feels, to use a food bank, you are going to ask for food.

"It is about how it feels, that is why there is a detachment. There is a missing link there.

"The day that I do not have a job and this food bank is not needed will be a good day."
Food banks risk being " Captured " by corporate PR drive, say activists.

Letter by 58 campaigners and academics says corporate approach is a " Sticking plaster."


The UK food bank movement has been warned it is in danger of being “captured” by big corporations and supermarket chains that promote high-profile partnerships with charities as effective ways of solving hunger and food waste.

A letter to the Guardian from 58 academics and campaigners criticises the way corporations and some charities frame food poverty as a logistical problem of how to distribute surplus food to people in poverty rather than a social justice issue.

It states: “At the heart of [the] approach [to tackling food poverty] must be a guarantee of the human right to adequate food and nutrition: living wages, income security and a fit for purpose welfare system, not ‘leftover’ food for ‘left behind’ people.”

It calls the growth of charity food aid in developed countries such as the UK and the US “a sticking plaster on a gaping wound of systemic inequality” that undermines the humanity and dignity of its recipients.

There is no evidence charity solves food insecurity, it says, adding: “However, food banking does benefit the reputations of Big Food and supermarket chains as good corporate citizens while distracting attention away from low wages paid to their workers.”

Signatories to the letter include the former UN rapporteur on the right to food Olivier de Schutter, the food policy expert Prof Tim Lang of City, University of London, and Prof Janet Poppendieck, the author of the classic study of food aid in the US, Sweet Charity.

The letter, which will reignite a simmering debate within the UK voluntary sector about how it should respond to soaring demand for emergency food caused by rising poverty, is timed to coincide with the annual conference of the Global Foodbanking Network (GFN), held this week in London.

GFN supports projects worldwide that redistribute to charities surplus and waste food donated by industry and supermarkets that would otherwise go to landfill or to feed farm animals. It says this model of food charity – which is known as food banking in the US – is both “green” and “a proven solution for nourishing communities”.

The US-based organisation is predominantly funded by corporate donors including Pepsico, Unilever and Kellogg’s. The Tesco chief executive, Dave Lewis, who is speaking at the conference, said food redistribution charities “play a crucial role in tackling global hunger and reducing food waste”.

GFN’s chief executive, Lisa Moon, rejected criticism that treating food insecurity as primarily a logistics problem ignored poverty and inequality. “The food bank model is uniquely positioned to address the paradox of global hunger and food waste,” she said.

The rise in charitable food aid in the UK over the past decade, from a handful of food banks in 2009 to more than 2,000 amid rising food insecurity, has led to fears charities are being coopted as an unofficial branch of the state to cover for welfare cuts and increasing economic insecurity for the lowest paid.

The UK charity FareShare, which is a GFN member and whose corporate partners include the food and catering companies Sodexo and Cargill, says its staff and volunteers distribute surplus food to more than 10,000 charities from day centres to domestic violence refuges, enabling them to provide about 775,000 meals a week to vulnerable people.

“We save these organisations more than £27m a year at a time when many of them are struggling to keep their services going in the face of severe local authority budget cuts,” said the FareShare chief executive, Lindsay Boswell.

He added: “The real scandal, and the academics and others would be more useful if they focused on this, is that only 6% of the food that is fit for human consumption and is surplus is diverted to organisations like FareShare.”

The UK’s biggest food bank network, the Trussell Trust, said it had decided not to attend the GFN conference because it said organisation’s message and approach did not “align with our vision of a UK without poverty or hunger and its aim to create a future without food banks”.

The Trussell Trust attracted criticism after accepting a £9m grant from Asda last year – its other corporate partners include Tesco, Waitrose and Unilever. Its chief executive, Emma Revie, said corporate sponsorship would not stop the charity from “speaking truth to power”.


Last year the environment secretary, Michael Gove, announced a £15m fund to support food distribution charities, including FareShare, saying it was “morally indefensible” that each year 100,000 tonnes of “perfectly edible food” was wasted.

Sabine Goodwin, the coordinator of the Independent Food Aid Network, said: “Food banking is not something to be celebrated, despite the good will and generosity of the many volunteers and donors filling a growing gap in the here and now. The fact that charitable food aid is needed at all must remain unacceptable.”
Food poverty in Scotland is double previous estimates, data shows.

Nearly half a million parcels delivered in 18 months, with similar hike predicted across UK.


The number of crisis food parcels being distributed in Scotland is almost double previous estimates, with campaigners predicting a similar increase across the rest of the UK as further data is gathered.

The new figures quantify for the first time the extent of provision by independent food banks in Scotland, an exercise that has yet to be conducted in England and Wales.

The data, collected by the Independent Food Aid Network (Ifan) and A Menu for Change, shows that between April 2017 and September 2018, 84 independent food banks across Scotland distributed 221,977 emergency food packages.

Added to existing data from the Trussell Trust, the UK’s largest food bank charity, which works out of 137 food banks in Scotland, the newly-combined figures reveal nearly half a million, at least 480,583, food parcels were distributed by the Trussell Trust and independent food banks during the 18-month period.

The Trussell Trust’s most recent figures on Scottish food bank use, taken from April to September 2018, found a 15% year-on-year increase which it linked directly to the rollout of universal credit. A similar increase was detected across the whole of the UK.

Sabine Goodwin, of Ifan, who has mapped at least 803 independent food banks and food parcel distributors around the UK, said the figures were shocking but she hoped this “missing piece of the jigsaw” would act as a spur for action.

“The situation is becoming more and more desperate, and it doesn’t take much imagination to see that this is happening in England and Wales, too,” she said. “We need action that deals with the root causes [of food poverty]. We need a social security system that is fit for purpose, and wages that are related to the cost of living.”

Goodwin said the figures, which she helped to collate, were the tip of the iceberg as they did not reflect the use of other types of emergency food aid provision or the scale of people going hungry without accessing any help at all.

In September 2018, statistics published by the Scottish government which measured food insecurity for the first time revealed one in five of single parents in Scotland had gone hungry.

Research has consistently shown that changes to the UK-wide benefits system, along with zero hours and temporary contracts that contribute to in-work poverty, is a key driver of food bank use.

Dr Mary Anne MacLeod, the research and policy officer at A Menu for Change, a three-year project partnering Oxfam Scotland with the Poverty Alliance, Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland and Nourish Scotland with the aim of reducing food bank use, urged the Scottish government to use its newly-devolved welfare powers to help poorer families.

There are increasing concerns that the proposed income supplement, specifically intended to reduce child poverty and due to start in 2020, remains ill-defined and will not be implemented in time to mitigate the devastating effects of Westminster-imposed austerity.

“The Scottish government has said that it needs to prioritise the secure transfer of benefits from Westminster, but they also made a commitment to boosting family income through the income supplement. These figures reveal the urgency and scale of the problem,” she said.
Ground zero ... Wakefield , West YorkieLand :

Food bank’s desperate plea as demand for help triples.

A food bank has issued a desperate plea for donations as they face unprecedented demand for help from struggling families and individuals.



St Catherine’s Church Centre, on Doncaster Road, has operated a food bank since 2012, providing emergency food parcels to families.

Last year, the food bank issued 5,887 food parcels - an average of 113 a week, and more than three times as many as were handed out in 2013.

Centre manager Lisa Grant said: “The issue is that people are relying on the food for longer period of time.

“We’re seeing more and more people who are experiencing delays with benefits, or just the general cost of living.

“Once they’ve paid their bills, they’ve got no money for food.

The centre reported a rise in demand in November, when Universal Credit began rolling out across the district.


The new system, which roles six benefits into one monthly payment, has been widely criticised, and left many families waiting more than five weeks for their first payment.

Max Troisi, who works at the centre, said: “It’s had a massive effect, we’re talking about 50 or 60 people a day that we’re feeding.

“We’re really struggling, and there’s still nine months until the end of the year.”

And while demand for food continues to grow, with 60 per cent more food packages given out in 2018 than the previous year, Lisa says the centre is also struggling financially.


“People don’t understand that it costs money to run the food bank,” she said. “We’re mostly run by volunteers, but we do have some paid staff.

“There’s the costs of running out vehicles to pick up food, the fuel and paying the drivers.

“We would really appreciate it if businesses might consider sponsoring our food bank, or donations financially.”

The centre is asking for donations of tinned spaghetti, tins of meat and fish, packets of noodles, cup a soups and bottles of UHT milk.

Donations can be made directly to the church centre, or via a number of donation points, including the Co-Op store at Meadow Vale, Outwood, and Sainsbury’s, on Ings Road.

Contact St Catherine’s Church Centre on 01924 211130 to help or make a donation.

Demand rising across the UK

National food bank network The Trussell Trust say that demand for support has risen across the UK.

In 2018, the Trust issued more than 1.3 million emergency food parcels.

Referral to food banks was at an all time high, with low income, benefit delays and benefit changes accounting for 69 per cent of referrals.

Emma Revie, the Trust’s chief executive, said that the Universal Credit system is leaving families “trapped in poverty”.

She said: “The Government needs to put money back into the pockets of people who have lost the most to austerity. Ending poverty and hunger in the UK shouldn’t be sidelined – the time to act is now.”
Interesting article ... given the headline ?

Are foodbanks making Britain’s hunger crisis worse ?

Don’t scoff – experts say normalisation of food poverty is at a tipping point, as figures show nearly twice as many food parcels are handed out than first feared. Joshua King investigates.


The scandal of widespread hunger has haunted Britain since the financial crash of 2008. Where food poverty was once unheard of, now foodbanks are an everyday reality for hundreds of thousands of people. Supermarkets and charities are battling to cut edible waste, but is that hard work actually putting food on the tables of hungry families?

New figures reveal 480,500 emergency food parcels were sent out in 2017-18 in Scotland, almost double previous estimates. Campaigners say this is the tip of the iceberg and warn studies in England and Wales will show the same trend. The numbers are so vast, and difficult to grasp, that we become inured to the brutal reality of food poverty. We put a few tins or packets of pasta in collection baskets without seeing the deep inequalities driving hunger in the UK.

A stark new warning claims we are in danger of ignoring those root causes by normalising foodbank use. It comes after the Global FoodBanking Network (GFN) held its annual conference in London last week. The GFN redistributes waste from the food industry and supermarkets which would otherwise go to landfill or to feed farm animals. Campaigners have accused big brands of institutionalising foodbanks and the dishing out of surplus food, which does little to tackle the crisis.

Dan Crossley, executive director of the Food Ethics Council, is one of the 58 food poverty campaigners who signed a public letter condemning what they call corporatisation of a social injustice.

“Companies throwing free food at the problem of poverty risk normalising the use of foodbanks,” he warns. “Instead businesses should look at how they can contribute to ending the need for charitable food aid provision, starting with their own employees.”

He condemns the “travesty” of many food retail workers forced to skip meals or use foodbanks. “Progressive companies will seek to tackle root causes. There is not one simple solution, but as a starter how about paying staff and agency staff a real living wage, putting employees on sensible contracts, paying a fair rate of tax and ensuring the differential between lowest and highest pay is not excessive?”

Signatories of the letter stress some of the programmes do help the community. Excess food is given to school breakfast clubs and homeless and domestic violence shelters. Food wastage is reduced and those in desperate need get a meal that might not otherwise have been on offer. But tackling food waste is not the same as solving wider food poverty.

“There is a strong business case for cutting food waste,” explains Pete Ritchie, co-founder of campaign group Nourish Scotland. “Supermarkets would just be throwing away money. It costs nothing. It’s like taking things to a charity shop you don’t want and saying you are being generous.”

He adds: “It distracts from the real causes of food poverty which are low income, a clunky benefits system and rising energy costs. The hype of using food waste is that there will be no hungry people. That’s not right. There’s a fundamental question of dignity. Why in the fifth or sixth biggest economy in the world should some people be reliant on the food thrown away by others?”

Redistributing food waste offers a handout, but not a hand up.

As the biggest UK voice in foodbank provision, the decision by The Trussell Trust not to attend the GFN conference may seem surprising. Garry Lemon, director of policy at the network, explains: “As an organisation we’ve made [that] decision because it doesn’t align with our vision of a UK without poverty or hunger.

“Foodbanks are providing absolutely vital, compassionate support, but no charity can replace the dignity of having long-term financial security. That’s why we’re campaigning to create a future without foodbanks.”

He describes poverty as a “current” that leaves people adrift without money for life’s basic needs. “But this isn’t inevitable. We know what can anchor people against those tides and reduce the need for foodbanks – a benefits system that provides sufficient money and support to anyone who needs its help,” he adds. The Trussell Trust is campaigning for changes to the five-week wait for a first Universal Credit payment, which they say is driving people to foodbanks.

The GFN told us they do see foodbanks as a temporary solution. But while the movement may be divided over how to proceed, the spectre of a bleak future is already evident across the Atlantic.

Robert Egger founded DC Central Kitchen, the world’s first community kitchen, as well as Washington DC street paper Street Sense. He says the way foodbanks in the United States operate has taken the fight against food poverty down the wrong path.

“They call redistribution of food ‘fighting hunger’,” he says. “Feeding a person will always be right, but unless you work to decrease need you aren’t really fighting hunger, you’re making folks dependent on your programme.

“As Morrissey sang, they are now ‘hostages to kindness’.”

Established in 1989 to use food donated from the hospitality industry and provide jobs and training, DC Central Kitchen has provided
35 million meals and helped 1,500 people into work. Egger adds: “I’m a big believer in using food to liberate. This is why I signed the campaign letter. The foodbank system started off on the right journey but went down the wrong road.”
Ground zero ... Market Drayton , Shropshire ... again , hardly an area that one would associate with poverty ?

Vital Market Drayton food bank low on supplies.

The number of people using Market Drayton’s food bank could just be the tip of an iceberg, a councillor has warned as its supplies reached their lowest ever level.


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Volunteer Hazel Haskayne said the food supplies “had never been so low” after a busy day last Friday, and made a heartfelt plea for anyone in the community who is in a position to help to donate.

And Market Drayton Town Councillor Mike Smith said the current numbers of residents using the service could be hiding a much higher number of people in need because of pride or a lack of awareness.

A number of people have donated food and other essentials since, though food bank manager Helen McSherry said there is still an urgent need for more. She thanked everyone who had donated for their generosity to the cause.

Worrying

Hazel said: “I have to keep asking for donations of food as I don’t know what else to do. I know there are lots of people out there who give every week and I would like to say thank you, we really do appreciate everything you do.

“I am now going to ask all those people who have not yet given to the food bank for whatever reason to please try and find it in your heart to help the less fortunate people of the town when they need it most."

Councillor Smith runs the popular social media page the Drayton Crier. He said: “It’s worrying that there is so much dependency on the food bank.

“It seems to be getting worse. How do we get people to donate more to it, that is the problem really.

“Who knows, we may all need the food bank one day.

“If it is bad, chances are in real terms it’s a lot worse. There will be people who feel it’s charity, they are too proud and they don’t want to feel like they are stooping too low.

Triggers


"To be honest I don’t know myself what sort of things they want. Somebody suggested we put an update on the Crier every week saying what they are short of, I don’t see why not.

“Some people I have heard question what triggers the ability to be able to use the food banks, perhaps someone could say what that is.

“Overall I think it’s a great facility and run by a well-meaning bunch of volunteers. Perhaps we need educating about what it is, what it does – perhaps something I could also help with on the Crier.”

Access to the food bank is via referral from a support agency. The Trussell Trust advises contacting the Market Drayton branch by calling 01630 654007 or emailing info@marketdrayton.foodbank.org.uk.

The food bank can then suggest a referral agency to contact, who will then be able to provide a referral or voucher to take to the food bank on Tuesday mornings or Friday afternoons.

Market Drayton’s food drop-off points include at the town’s supermarkets, churches, and the Festival Drayton Centre.

There are also collection points at points in nearby villages including Loggerheads, Childs Ercall and Mucklestone.

To see what is needed each week and the full list of collection points visit marketdrayton.foodbank.org.uk
Amber Rudd stumbling through a BBC interview :

What Amber Rudd said about foodbanks – and what she really means.

The Work & Pensions Secretary will only admit Universal Credit fuels foodbank use when it’s not under her watch.


During a tough interview with BBC 5 Live’s Emma Barnett, the Work & Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd got in a tangle about foodbanks.

When she was pressed on why there was a need for foodbanks in the fifth richest country in the world, Rudd appeared to suggest that there is less need than we think. That, actually, many people are using foodbanks because they simply don’t know about the benefits they’re entitled to.

It’s worth hearing the whole exchange. Here it is:

Emma Barnett: There’s a spike in the use of foodbanks, so it’s hardly a strong economy, and I know you’ve probably visited foodbanks and heard heart-rending tales?

Amber Rudd: Of course I’ve visited foodbanks, and I’ve acknowledged that there were some issues with foodbanks when they first started. But I find now that foodbanks are being very supportive of people who need it. We have work coaches, helping people…

EB: Well, thank God they’re there.

AR: We have, people, work coaches, from the Jobcentres, making sure that people are supported as they need to be, sometimes people don’t…

EB: We shouldn’t be living in a country that’s the fifth richest economy though with the need for foodbanks.

AR: I agree with that. I agree with that.

EB: You shouldn’t be as a Secretary of State having to praise them.

AR: Emma, I agree that we don’t want to have foodbanks. But sometimes I discover, when I go to visit the foodbanks, that there were people in there who don’t know what access to benefits they had, which is why it’s important that there’s a good relationship between us and foodbanks, which generally there is, so that I can ensure…

EB: Yes but there are people in there who desperately need them.

AR: I can ensure that people are getting the benefits they should be. I’m absolutely committed to making sure they should…

EB: Hang on, hang on, what percentage of people in foodbanks do you think shouldn’t be there because they don’t know about what benefits they can get?

AR: Well, my experience is that when I go and talk to them, some people do not, which is why we’ve agreed with a lot of the providers of foodbanks to make sure we have our experts there to help them. Sometimes they’re individuals who work for the Jobcentre, sometimes the people who run the foodbanks don’t want that, so instead we make sure there’s a designated person who can signpost them so that there is the support they need.

EB: Are you saying if everybody knew how to access the benefits they were entitled to…

AR: I haven’t said that, Emma. I don’t know if you’ve been to a foodbank. I’ve been to a few of them, and in my experience, as I’ve said, and this is my conversations with some of the people there, is that they need to understand sometimes what benefits they are entitled to, some people struggle to make those applications.

EB: But there’s still a significant group of people who do know what they’re entitled to and do still need to go, surely you accept that?

AR: I do accept that, and I know there are many different reasons for that…

EB: Right, so back to your core point about what you think the Conservatives were elected to do, I mean we could debate that but perhaps we shouldn’t waste our time together, you talk about a strong economy, I suppose it just doesn’t point in that direction when people are still in need of foodbanks in the fifth largest economy in the world… We’re in a position where you can’t reconcile the two, and perhaps more compassion needs to come from the cabinet about this issue instead of banging on about how good the employment figures are.

Although she eventually accepts that there are different reasons why people need foodbanks, Rudd’s main argument seems to be that people go simply because they don’t know how generous the government is.

Of course, there is a lot of truth in that Universal Credit can be confusing both to claimants and frontline staff. But this isn’t claimants’ fault. It’s the responsibility of the government, both for making the system harder by trying to simplify it, cutting Jobcentres, and failing to adequately train staff.

Over 100 Jobcentres have shut down (about 15 per cent) between 2016 and 2018, and those that remain have only a third of the resources and staffing they had in 2012, according to the Learning and Work Institute. Though Universal Credit was supposed to be “digital by default”, claimants must attend mandatory appointments and periodically submit physical evidence for their claims.

Jobcentres have also been struggling to manage the roll-out of Universal Credit. Mark Serwotka, leader of the public worker union PCS, told the work and pensions select committee last year that “many members reported that they had no training whatsoever”. The committee chair, Frank Field, spoke of the “lack of training and expertise at the front line in Jobcentre Plus”, which left employees “unprepared to deal with the most vulnerable claimants”.

While Rudd’s reference to Jobcentre staff or designated benefits advisers in foodbanks is welcome, it’s a result of the government’s own actions that they are needed in the first place.

Rudd has admitted in the past that Universal Credit contributed to foodbank use. “The main issue which led to an increase in foodbank use could have been the fact that people had difficulty accessing their money early enough,” she told the House of Commons in February.

Indeed, analysing data from its network, the charity Trussell Trust found that foodbank use has risen by 52 per cent in areas where Universal Credit has been fully rolled out for 12 months or more.

To counter the problem, Rudd pointed towards the changes made to the delivery of Universal Credit in last year’s Budget.

Firstly, changes to advance payments: claimants can repay advance payments (upfront loans) more slowly from October this year (at 30 per cent of the standard allowance, down from 40 per cent), and over 16 months instead of 12 months from October 2021.

Secondly, the two-week transitional housing benefit payments for claimants migrating to Universal Credit, to bridge the gap created by the monthly payment cycle.

Both these changes were announced before Rudd took over at the Department. So she hasn’t announced any fresh policies to follow up her admission that Universal Credit has been fuelling food bank use.

But in another interview yesterday, on BBC Radio 4’s World at One, Rudd was asked whether Universal Credit is still sending people to foodbanks. “No, absolutely not,” she replied:

“The issue that I referred to previously on foodbanks was about the initial rollout of Universal Credit where some people, a large number of people unfortunately, weren’t being paid on time as they had expected to be, and that transfer from their previous benefits to their Universal Credit wasn’t smooth enough.”

Anecdotally, there is no sign that these changes have made much difference to foodbank use in Universal Credit areas so far. Problems with the new welfare system remain a common reason for people visiting foodbanks today, mainly because of the five-week wait. Once the next foodbank use figures are out, we’ll see whether this has changed at all under Rudd’s stewardship.
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