Coronavirus update — May 2020
As of May 2020 the number of people dependant on food banks has risen sharply since this article was first posted. By 2019 there were 1.6 million dependants, who knows yet what that has risen to through the coronavirus pandemic.
Statistics had been rising way before the pandemic hit. The number of supplies being distributed has risen by 73% over the past five years and in a large part that has been down to government cutting support for people with the unpopular universal credit, Amber Rudd linked universal credit to food bank use. In fact one estimate is that 1.5 million people in the UK go a whole day without food and charities running food banks are also struggling to cope.
The pandemic has added furloughed workers to the queue of universal credit recipients and in an unfortunate twist, lockdown has seen food banks close due to lack of donations. The Islington food bank shut down because of a decline in donations and volunteer staff. Other food banks have been reducing their services too.
In late March 2020 the former One Direction member 26 year old Liam Payne linked up with The Trussell Trust, who run over 2000 food banks, to support 100 food banks across the Midlands and UK cities. He donated 360,000 meals.
Mr Payne said:
“When we’re out on the other side of this, we need to look at why there are people in this country who don’t have enough money for food.“
In the meantime, since lockdown began on 23 March, UK MPs were advised on Thursday 14 May 2020 of the impact on families and of the number of children depending on the facilities increasing by 122%, compared to the previous year. Emma Revie, chief executive of the Trussell Trust charity, told the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee that their analysis of the last two weeks in March revealed an increase of 81% in demand with a disproportionately high number of young people depending on food banks in the UK.
Labour MP for Croydon Central, Sarah Jones called for a reform to benefit payments with the The Trussell Trust research showing that households dependant on facilities were surviving on £50 each week after housing costs, on average. Of new claimants for family benefits she suggested an initial grant, not loan, while Universal Credit was being processed. In comparison to the 200,000 applications each month, by 2 April 2020 the Department of Works and Pensions received 950,000 applications in the two weeks from 16 March 2020, when the government’s advice was to work from home where possible, with a quarter of claims including application for the grant.
A new food bank opens every 4 days in the UK. It’s a necessary facility that’s on the increase because sources say there are one million people in the UK that depend on them.
How true this is, remains unclear. Could there in fact be three million people that would need this additional resource simply to maintain a healthy diet, or is it just being assumed that those on benefits or a minimum wage are living in poverty?
Should be rule out smokers and drinkers claiming to be in poverty, why do they deserve assistance when they throw away financial assistance on addictions. If you are on the breadline, it does not mean you smoke, drink and own an Apple mobile; it means you don’t have a pot to piss in.
The concept of poverty or ‘poorness’ is not defined by the government or European Court but rather by our state of understanding of life in the modern world.
For example, a homeless person begging will receive more money if they have a dog with them. People do give more when they see the dog it’s a fact. But Why? Surely if the vagrant can afford to feed a dog then surely they are affording to eat themselves.
It’s all played out in the collective conciousness that suggests the dog is assentially and primarily for companionship. We are more concerned that this person should not feel alone, than whether they can eat or have a shelter to sleep.
There is genuine help for homeless and those on benefits that are destitute. However, far too often these services are abused by those that will smoke, drink, take drugs and own pets – before they think about taking care of themselves.
One hypothetical breakdown of a mother on benefits receiving housing benefit and £224.97 per week, (£73.10 Income Support, £117.47 Child Tax Credits, £34.40 Child Benefit) was broken down like in shown in the table on the right.
From the expenses listed one would ask why a mobile telephone is an essential item when a fridge is not regarded as one. And why is someone on benefits having tax deducted at all from their benefits if the government has recognised that claimant is in abject poverty.
It’s food for thought …
Food banks typically provide a minimum of three days supply of tinned and dried foods.
Here’s what The Guardian reported
The supermarket chain Asda has announced a policy U-turn that will see the return of permanent collection points for food banks and other charities in all its UK stores.
In response to its initial policy change, 88,000 people signed a petition hosted by the campaigning organisation 38 Degrees and a number of MPs raised concerns.
Amanda Bloomfield, the chief executive of the Gatehouse Foodbank in Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, said: “Members of the public were unhappy about it, and they wanted to know why it had been made. I’m sure they’ll be glad to know that their voices have had an influence.”
The Asda U-turn
Asda stores removed food bank donation points from its UK stores and caused an uproar from charities and concerned groups.
Asda is owned by the US retail giant Walmart, in turn one of the largest concerns in the commercial world. They withdrew the food bank service, which allowed people to donate food they had bought in store as well as from other sources, without giving any notice, or any reason.
Members of the pressure group 38 Degrees led a petition signed by 88,000 members which helped to turn around Asda’s decision to get rid of food bank collection points in their stores.
38 Degrees along with other campaigners, got Asda to bring back the food bank collection points.
It’s common nowadays for organisations to refer people to the food banks, such as when you are receiving benefits, if you inform them that you are in dire straits they will refer you. The YMCS referred 5,000 people last year to food banks.
The YMCA warned the government that young people are being driven to becoming reliant on food banks which is due to changes in the welfare policy. The charity accused ministers of having their “heads in the sand” over welfare changes.
Denise Hatton, YMCA England chief executive, stated that it is unacceptable in this day and age that anyone should have to rely on the kindness of strangers in order to eat.
A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions said:
“There is no robust evidence that our reforms are linked to increased use of food banks and these claims are based on anecdotal evidence.”
It is estimated that each year 1.3bn tons of food are wasted worldwide.
France has become the first country in the world to ban supermarkets from throwing away or destroying unsold food, forcing them instead to donate it to charities and food banks.
The law followed a campaign led by a petition, started by the councillor Arash Derambarsh. It makes it easier for excess food to find its way to food banks directly from factories that manufacture for store brands.
Michael Andrew Gove, the former Times columnist and Conservative party member for Surrey Heath since 2005 said that:
“People who use food banks have only got themselves to blame for mismanaging their finances.
This was the guy who was the Secretary of State for Justice – He obviously has never known hunger.