The right wing press has launched a vicious attack on food banks. More than one million people in Britain rely on them because of low wages and benefit cuts. For sections of the media they are “unnecessary”. The reality is very different.
Leeds grandmother Angela Gregson told Socialist Worker, “If I couldn’t go to the food bank I would starve. After paying the bedroom tax, council tax and bills I basically have £1 a day to live on.”
Even with the help of the food bank it’s a struggle to survive. “They give me rice and tinned things, and that’s only for three days,” said Angela. “After that I’m down to handouts from relatives. Some days I don’t even have a meal, just a cup of tea.”
Angela has arthritis and lives on Employment Support Allowance in the home she grew up in.
Her situation seems shocking. But it will be familiar to the thousands who are charged the bedroom tax, ruled “fit for work” despite a disability, or had their benefits cut off for failing to meet impossible targets.
Food bank use has shot up under the Tories—and so have admissions to hospital with malnutrition.
So it’s no wonder there was such fury at the Mail on Sunday’s attack on the biggest food bank provider, the Trussell Trust, last weekend.
Its journalists lied their way in to claim food, then said they’d got it “no questions asked”.
Its own report went on to say that a food bank volunteer “asked our reporter a series of questions” about why he needed help.
And people who go to food banks often have to show official vouchers from their doctor or job centre just to get fed.
Donations to the Trust soared in response to the Mail’s attack.
It’s a sign that the Tories’ attempts to pit workers against unemployed people haven’t been as successful as they hoped.
The Tories try to avoid attacking food banks for fear of drawing attention to the growing hunger crisis in Britain.
Instead, they have the nerve to hail them as a success for the “Big Society”.
They want to see poor people at the mercy of charities and families instead of having real jobs and a comprehensive welfare state.
Angela only heard about the food bank through word of mouth. She had been told nothing about the possibility of appealing against the bedroom tax until she went on a protest recently.
Meanwhile MPs still get a free food allowance on top of their generous salary.
“It makes me angry,” said Angela. “It’s not just the lack of food, it’s the stress of waking up day after day knowing what’s coming.
“Of course I’ve got to go to the food bank.”