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."