It was announced today that the Red Cross have undertaken a new task. They’re going to be raising funds and collecting food in order to feed the poor and hungry, the families who can’t afford to buy food, in a country where they haven’t been needed in almost 70 years. The situation in this country has become so bad that more than half a million people are having to rely on food banks, on charity, in order to keep their families alive.
That country is Britain.
Our beloved government denies that there is any link between the rapidly increasing number of people relying on food banks and the sweeping cuts they’ve made to welfare and public services. In July Lord Freud, a Work and Pensions minister, claimed that the increase in people using food banks was because more now existed, and implied that those claiming from food banks weren’t in need but just after a freebie: “Clearly food from a food bank is by definition a free good and there’s almost infinite demand.” Last month Education Secretary Michael Gove claimed that the majority of people relying on food banks were doing so because they’re unable to manage their finances properly.
These men, these ministers, this government, haven’t a clue. You can only obtain food from a food bank if you’re referred by a professional – a doctor, health visitor or police officer for example. You can’t just turn up and walk off with a box of free food, someone has to recognise that if that person isn’t referred it’s likely that they and their family will go hungry. The government’s cuts to welfare, the introduction of the bedroom tax, their hateful policies with regard to people with disabilities, the increase in energy prices, all these things have chipped away at people’s income until they are unable to buy sufficient food for themselves and their children. (If you want to read a firsthand account of what it’s like to live in poverty in modern Britain, I highly recommended the blog by Jack Monroe, especially this post).
This is Britain. In 2013.
This is utterly disgraceful. The British government should be horrified, ashamed and racing to help these families. They’re not. So it’s left to charities like the Red Cross, the Trussell Trust and Fare Share to feed the hungry.
If you are one of the fortunate ones for whom food banks are just something you hear about in the news, please consider donating to your local food bank. If you don’t know where your nearest one is, google “food bank” and your town or area; alternatively your local church, children’s centre or GP surgery might know. You can help prevent families going hungry this winter; our government certainly isn’t going to.
UPDATE 16th October
According to figures released by the Trussell Trust today, they fed 355,885 people in the 6 months from April to September this year. That’s more than triple the number in the same period last year. Almost 34% of those fed were children; 51% were because of changes to benefits or delays in the welfare system.