Socialist Worker

People forced to food banks as they are ‘swept into destitution’

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2703

Low pay and benefits leave people hungry

Low pay and benefits leave people hungry (Pic: Child Poverty Action Group)


Huge numbers of people are being driven to food banks as the coronavirus crisis deepens. The Trussell Trust charity said it handed out 81 percent more emergency food parcels in the last two weeks of March.

And it said low wages and benefits were the main reason for the rise.

The Independent Food Aid Network (Ifan) also said it had seen record levels of demand, with an average 59 percent increase from February to March. This is 17 times higher than this time last year.

A coalition of charities are now demanding the government does more to stop people from being “swept into destitution”. The charities include the Trussell Trust, Child Poverty Action Group, Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Ifan.

Their demands follow weeks of warnings about vulnerable people who may have suffered pay or job cuts not having enough to eat.

Emily Fay from the Shropshire Food Poverty Alliance warned in early April about the growing pressure on food banks.

She said the biggest concern among volunteers was “food supply”. “They are concerned that food donations will drop,” she said. “It’s happening at the same time as we expect much higher demand.”

In Ramsgate food bank use has gone up fourfold during the crisis. Some food banks are running low on volunteers and supplies.

In Margate, food bank coordinator John Finnegan has been forced to launch a fundraiser to try and replace stocks. His service has run since 1986. “Never in that 34 years has it seen anything like what we are facing now,” he said.

“Back in January we were giving out 50/60 food parcels per week. Four months later we are doing that per day.”

And John said the service relies on donations from people going to church – but churches are now shut.

Supplies

David O’Connor from Thanet Food Link is also fundraising to try and keep the service going. “We are running very low on supplies as the need has increased so much,” he said.

“The charity has given out the same amount of parcels in one week as in the whole month of February.”

At the same time as tens of thousands more people – at least – face food insecurity in Britain, food is being destroyed on an industrial scale.

Producers are destroying eggs, pouring away milk and letting vegetables rot in the ground because the lockdowns make it harder to profit from them.

The coronavirus crisis has exposed the brutal irrationality at the heart of the system.

Food poverty is hitting millions during lockdown
Food poverty is hitting millions during lockdown
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The charities called on the government to set up a coronavirus emergency income support scheme.

Emma Revie from the Trussell Trust said the economic crisis was like a “tidal wave” but “we don’t all have lifeboats”.

Alison Garnham from the Child Poverty Action Group called for benefits to be raised to support children and families.

And Sabine Goodwin from Ifan said the answer was not yet more food parcels. Instead the government should give “sufficient income to the huge numbers of people impacted by this crisis and the poverty that preceded it”.

There is more than enough money and food to meet everyone’s needs. But people will continue to go hungry unless enormous pressure is put on those at the top.


One in five go hungry as coronavirus poverty bites

Almost a fifth of British households with children have been going hungry over the past five weeks.

A Food Foundation survey found that with people losing their jobs and income due to the pandemic, affected households were seeing children having to skip meals.

Some 30 percent of lone parents and 46 percent of parents with a disabled child are facing food insecurity.

And 17 percent of parents in NHS worker families have had smaller meals than usual or have had to skip meals. Almost one in ten have not eaten for a whole day.

Anna Taylor, executive director of the Food Foundation, said, “Having access to a nutritious diet is a basic human right. Struggling families need money in their pockets now.”

The charity repeated its calls for the government to abolish immediately the five-week wait for Universal Credit, make fortnightly payments of child benefit and remove the benefit cap.


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