Op-Ed: Food banks are a relatively new phenomenon in the UK. The UK has experienced poverty and unemployment before but in modern times the welfare state has provided for those in most need. Soup kitchens and the like tended to be used by those who were living on the streets full-time or were exceptionally down on their luck, often due to mental illness, alcohol dependency or drug abuse, but not anymore.
Food Banks are proving life savers to a different section of society in the 21st Century and the numbers are increasing.
The Trussell Trust is the organiser behind the many food banks now scattered around the UK. When you consider that according to their statistics in 2013 more than 13 million people in the UK were living below the poverty line, it is easy to see why the use of food banks continues to grow.
In 2013 Television media reported UK Food Banks speaking of families trying to live on £400 a month. In one family the parents did not eat for the odd day here and there in order to feed their child. This particular couple were originally ashamed that they needed such "charity" as a food bank but desperate times lead to desperate measures.
The Trussell Trust reports n March 2015 "The charity, which runs a network of over 400 UK foodbanks, says that the number of people helped by their foodbanks in the first half of the 2014-15 financial year is 38% higher than numbers helped during the same period last year. 492,641 people were given three days' food and support, including 176,565 children, between April and September 2014, compared to 355,982 during same period in previous year."
Food banks rely on the support of ordinary people and local communities. It is like a co-operative in the true sense of the word with those who have a little more helping those living on the edge. In such rollercoaster times who know when it could be YOU needing the help.
But David Cameron's 2015 electioneering stance on foodbanks is shameful
Each time Cameron is asked about the increased need of foodbanks he turns the talk around to his doomed 'big society' and talks about how good it is that people are helping each other, totally and intentionally missing the point and dodging any questions.
Tuesday, David Cameron in a TV interview again claimed his government have created 1,000 jobs for each day they have been in office but those figures do not add up. In the 21st Century many jobless people no longer sign on as unemployed and work is more often part-time, temporary, low-paid or on zero-hours contracts.
The growth of foodbanks under Cameron's watch is shocking
Trussell Trust foodbanks began as a Christian charity, when Labour was in office, to help the poorest in society. A couple of thousand people across the country used them in 2005/2006 which increased ten-fold as the global economic crisis of 2008 hit.
Those figures however are nothing compared to in 2015.
Under the Tory led coalition, during a period they claim is now economically good, the number of people using foodbanks increased dramatically in number and are used by the 'working poor of the UK'.
Foodbanks are supposed to be an emergency stop gap but for the poorest people in British society they are now a way of life.
The reasons for a sudden or urgent need to use a food bank may be ill health, redundancy, loss of a partner and more. In many ways the food banks offer a service which saves the government money. In turn this saves all of us.
Just think about it. A family suddenly thrown into a desperate situation with little money for the basic foods; more health problems, a family breakdown or turning to a life of crime are all distinct possibilities.
The UK government needs to do more to prevent poverty, especially for children instead of allowing The Trussell Trust to fulfil a need in British society. Each food bank offers a three day supply box of food for those in an emergency situation. If you want to help below is a list of items which the Trussell Trust can always utilise:
Milk (UHT or powdered)
Fruit juice (carton)
Sponge pudding (tinned)
Rice pudding (tinned)
Tea Bags/instant coffee
Instant mash potato
Biscuits or snack bars
As welfare benefits continue to be cut to the bone more and more people are reaching out to this charity. Please support if you are able. The charity had humble beginnings and the website carries details of the Salisbury foodbank. It says, "Starting in a garden shed in 2000, Salisbury foodbank fed 3,906 people in crisis locally in 2011 and is the inspiration behind the UK foodbank network." No mean feat! There is also advice on starting your own foodbank but we would prefer the goverment to do its job and provide Social Security for the people of the UK.
In the 21st Century, in a rich country like Britain, should we even have foodbanks which are in effect 21st Century soup kitchens?
Labour latest: Labour pledges to end dependency on food banks with welfare reforms. The Labour Party is promising to scrap benefit sanctions and low pay culture that it believes is forcing people to turn to food banks - March 25.
Tuesday March 31 "Scottish Labour makes food banks pledge. Scottish Labour has unveiled a plan to end the need for food banks, as figures show more than 60 children a day are relying on such hand-outs."
The heady days of fabulous staff bonus schemes must surely be history or on temporary hold?
Kingfisher representatives claim the effect of these changes on jobs will be 'neutral' as job roles are shuffled rather than axed. Will job moves include protected work contracts or will workers face reduced hours, less pay or even zero-hour contracts?
Monday B&Q ditched expansion plans for France when Kingfisher abandoned plans to purchase French DIY chain Mr Bricolage for €275 'after one of the latter's shareholders opposed the deal'.
Staff will now face a period of uncertainty as Kingfisher streamline their business and make it fit for 21st Century trading.
In a separate announcement “Kevin O'Byrne, chief executive for B&Q UK & Ireland, would leave the firm on 15 May 2015 "allowing a smooth handover of his responsibilities" with further details to be announced "in due course".”
However you look at it though for now at least 600 jobs are at risk.
Source BBC News
In August 2014 a House of Lords committee has called for fracking to be a 'national priority'. The committee reportedly says it has investigated concerns over water use and methane leaks but does not believe they present serious risk.
During the last five years the number of bums on seats in the House of Lords has rose steeply and the number of Tory bottoms in particular has increased.
Fracking may be off the election manifesto of the Tory party but it is bound to feature in the next government if the Tories win.
In January 2015 the Tories were forced into a U-turn on fast-track fracking after accepting Labour plans to tighten regulations reported the Guardian.
While political pundits claim UKIPs share of the vote has been squeezed the election is still very much up in the air. It is still any party's election and only a majority win by one party will prevent a hotch-potch coalition being formed.
Note: UKIP were called a party of fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists by David Cameron back in 2006. He has since apologised.
However those accusations continually come back to haunt UKIP and later Monday this story seems to reinforce that description - UKIP parliamentary candidate for Hendon Jeremy Zeid calls for kidnapping of US President Barack Obama.
According to JC "Mr Zeid, a member of Kenton United Synagogue, stepped down last Thursday after he wrote on his Facebook page: “Once Obama is out of office, the Israelis should move to extradite the bastard or ‘do an Eichmann’ on him and lock him up for leaking state secrets.” His decision to quit UKIP was revealed Monday.
A Child's Easter in England past
In the Christian faith Easter is far more important than Christmas but as commercial events the reverse is true.
With no faith to speak of these days I will probably enjoy a mixture of the above but brought up as a church going Christian it will be hard to ignore entirely the 'Easter message'.
For me as a child Holy Week, the run up to Easter, was a busy time. It started on Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter. It was school holidays too but the extra time playing was interrupted frequently by church.
Church was an integral part of any Sunday for us but on Palm Sunday we went to church to celebrate Christ's triumphant ride into Jerusalem. He made a humble entry to Jerusalem on a donkey and the people adored him laying palms in front of him yet a week later he was crucified.
Each Palm Sunday as kids we would receive a small cross made out of a palm leaf which we would place in our bibles. Yes we all had bibles in those days. We were a relatively poor family but a bible was a must. As kids though our bible was one of the advent presentations handed out for good Sunday school attendance during the year. I loved mine but more for the glorious illustrations it held. Of course Jesus was portrayed in Michelangelo style as a fair haired white man. The palm cross would be treasured and at least one made it through into adulthood.
Holy Week began Monday with a visit to church in the evening. Brother and I sang in the church choir. He was pretty good but I was dire and I guess I was tolerated in true Christian spirit. Hymns such as 'There is a green hill far away' would haunt me as a child. I overthought everything and was sensitive to sorrow which meant the whole crucifixion was a nightmare for me.
For Holy Week our traditional choir garb was dumbed down and we wore just the black cassock. Come the Easter weekend when we celebrated the rise from the dead of Christ out came the white surplice.
Each night of Holy Week we would trek off, it was not far actually, to our church.
On Good Friday we did not eat any meat but instead fish was our main meal. That is more of a Catholic tradition but we followed suit in the 50s and 60s; others fast on Good Friday to remember Christ's sacrifice.
Hot Cross buns with plenty of butter would feature across the Easter weekend, the cross on top of the bun symbolising the crucifixion.
Dad would enjoy a long weekend from work. As a building site worker he would be grateful to relax for four days but church would still feature strongly and eat into his time.
As kids we were in some ways spoiled by an elderly family. We had no grandparents and few cousins but we had many elderly great aunts and uncles who supplied far too many Easter eggs and other goodies. Our Easter was a mixture of religion and commercialism I guess.
Easter 2015 may almost pass unnoticed. Since retirement there is no extra day's leave from work to look forward too as every day is a 'holiday'. Church has not featured in my Easter for 40 years or more. There could be an odd chocolate egg to tempt me.
The nearest thing to the Christmas message will be an Easter Christian themed card I will receive from my elderly neighbour; I will reciprocate. But you cannot totally erase a childhood where Christ featured so strongly at Easter.
Faith or no my thoughts will invariably wander to the crucifixion, the Easter message and our increasingly troubled world.
The Easter message is a radical declaration of how God sees every person and, yes, we experience this personally in terms of our own faith.