Foodbanks not a cure, say Greens

28 April 2014

How can we end hunger in the east?

The Green Party has published a report on foodbanks, detailing not only why the number of people relying upon them is growing fast, but offering solutions to the problem of hunger in the east of England.

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The Greens, while saluting the dedication of those providing vital assistance at the 56 foodbanks now operating across our region, strongly believe that the use of foodbanks ought not to become an acceptable norm. The report says foodbanks are a clear sign of growing poverty, inequality and social marginalisation in British society.

The Trussell Trust, the largest single provider of foodbanks in our region, co-operated with the preparation of the Hunger in the East report. They say that in 2013/14 they have provided help to just over 90,000 people in the east. The county-by-county breakdown is provided below.

The report offers a series of case-studies from foodbank providers and users. It busts some of the myths surrounding foodbank use, such as the claim that people who use them simply like free food and are encouraged in their dependency.

To coincide with its publication, candidates on the Green Party European election list for the region will be visiting their local foodbanks to make sure they are fully briefed on latest developments.

Lead candidate Rupert Read said:

"Our report shows just how bad the problem facing foodbanks has become. Welfare reforms have pushed nearly a million people into poverty. The government needs to stop punishing the poor, and start creating long-term jobs and opportunities for people. “

“What we are adding in to the equation with this report is genuine solutions. Our recommendations include an end to the 'bedroom tax' and to witch-hunting social security recipients; support for 'social supermarkets' and measures to enable more people to get their hands on food directly. Once we start getting enough community gardens and allotments, smallholdings and other community-supported-agriculture schemes up and running, the problem of far too many people having no food of their own can be solved at source.”

The Green candidates who have co-authored the report are calling on the government to make sure that the welfare system does its job of providing a last line of defence against hunger in this country, that work pays enough for people to properly provide for their families and that food is marketed in a way which allows people to afford a healthy diet.

Dr Read said:

“The notion which the government seems to have, that welfare recipients can mitigate the reductions they’ve seen in benefits payments by finding work or moving to a smaller home is true for only a very small proportion of people. It is shameful that the consequence has been that more people in this country are facing hunger.”

Wednesday April 30th

0915: Cllr Mark Ereira-Guyer visits the foodbank at Gatehouse, Dettingen Way, Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk IP33 3TU. Mark chaired the working group which set it up.

1530: Rupert Read visits Colchester foodbank at 33 Moorside Business Park, Eastgates, Colchester, CO1 2ZF, along with Green Party local co-ordinator Bev Maltby.

Thursday May 1st

1200: Rupert Read visits Gt Yarmouth foodbank at The Salvation Army, Tolhouse St, Gt Yarmouth, NR30 2SQF.


Find the report here:

http://eastern.greenparty.org.uk/assets/files/easternfiles/foodbank_report.pdf

Summary of findings:

  • There are now 40 food banks in the East operated by the Trussell Trust, plus a further 16 non-Trussell food banks. Bedfordshire: 5, Cambridgeshire: 8, Essex: 12, Hertfordshire: 12, Norfolk: 9, Sufolk: 7.
  • For the Trussell Trust foodbanks, the numbers of people helped in 2013/14 have been as follows: Beds: 8,852, Cambs: 17,036, Essex: 20,259, Herts: 17,968, Norfolk: 20,912, Suffolk: 4,979.
  • The growth of Food Banks is linked to welfare reform and to rising food prices.
  • In the East, there are 33,622 people who are affected by the Bedroom Tax, and 1,759 by the Housing Benefit cap. Of the 690,410 families who receive child benefit and are therefore affected by its capping, 104,000 have three or more children to support.
  • Benefits sanctions have been issued in the East against 61,797 claimants between October 2012 and September 2013 under the new regime, compared to just under 19,080 for the region in the whole of 2008.
  • The average cost of welfare reform to a household has been estimated at £1615 a year (£31 a week).
  • Food prices have doubled in the past 10 years, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). A survey by Which? magazine in September found that 41% of people were experiencing increased stress levels due to rising food prices. 29% of people were struggling to buy enough food for themselves or their household.
  • The number of people in the East treated for malnutrition has risen from 209 in 2008 to 331 in 2012

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