Food banks – a wake-up call for government

JUST turn the clock back a few years ago and most people would not have known what a food bank was. Those who did would tell you they were there to feed the poorest in society.

Food banks are run by the Trussell Trust, a charity which provides three days of good quality food for people who would otherwise go hungry. Sadly, under this government they have become a feature of our communities, with 130,000 people across the country being fed this year – more than double the year before.

In 2012, a new food bank opens at a rate of two every week. If you were to speak to one of their volunteers, they would tell you that it is not just the homeless or the most vulnerable that uses their services.

The biggest demand is now from families who are facing benefits delays, struggling with debt and unemployment.

It is a sad indictment of the policies of the present government that we live in the seventh richest country in the world but our children go to bed hungry at night because their parents find rising food prices crippling to their household finances.

With almost 3,000 people out of work in Islwyn alone, families are finding it difficult to meet the cost of living. In Gwent last year over 22,000 meals were given out to more than 2,000 people who could not afford to put a meal on the table.

Another leading food charity, Fareshare, feeds 35,000 people a day by recycling food ‘waste’ from supermarkets and the food industry to charities working with the vulnerable.

To me, it is absolutely heartbreaking when a parent is unable to feed their child; rising food poverty is a national scandal and the situation is getting worse.

A recent survey of shoppers found that one in four people put something back at the supermarket checkout as they try to balance higher food prices and falling wages.

That is why I recently took part in the successful Million Meal Appeal organised by FareShare which saw shoppers in supermarkets all over the country donate one item of food from their weekly shop to local charities.

It is my hope that the Million Meal Appeal serves as a wake-up call for government that something needs to be done to alleviate poverty – that way perhaps no child in this country will need ever know hunger again.