As Britain succumbs to a poverty crisis, food banks are calling on people’s support to help those less fortunate, including children, who are facing hunger.
Between April and September this year the Trussell Trust distributed more than 500,000 emergency food parcels to people in crisis – over 188,500 of them to children.
That means that for the 2016-17 financial year the anti-poverty charity is set to distribute the highest number of food parcels in its 12-year history.
And that demand always gets higher at Christmas. Trust figures show that last December there was a 45% increase in the number of three-day emergency food supplies it provided, compared to the monthly average for 2015. Analysis of five years of Trussell’s food bank data by the University of Hull confirms a striking seasonal spike during the festive season.
So as food banks brace for their busiest month of the year, the trust is calling on people to support their local food bank to help families facing hunger this Christmas.
The trust’s call is echoed by UNISON, many of whose members are among the country’s growing number of ‘working poor’ who also find themselves with no choice but to visit food banks.
The union’s annual survey of health staff across the UK found that almost half of respondents were seeking financial help, just to make ends meet, while 1% said they had visited food banks in the past year.
This is why in addition to fighting to protect health workers in the workplace, UNISON Hampshire Health branch made a seasonal donation to Southampton City Mission Food Bank.
But charities cannot and should not fill the gaps left by austerity, through cuts of vital services. That takes political will – political will that is still lacking despite the rhetoric. The Chancellor Philip Hammond’s Autumn Statement did little to help UNISON members. As General Secretary Dave Prentis noted:
“Aside from those on the very lowest wages, the pay misery for school, hospital and town hall staff goes on. The government’s stubborn refusal to end the one per cent pay cap means wages are lagging way behind rising food and fuel prices, causing real financial hardship.”
Our members need a wage they can live on without having to rely on charity.
As well as supporting food banks, the Hampshire Health branch also made a donation to the Testlands Support Project – a Southampton charity whose goal it is to support the education of young people in the city. Branch Treasurer Janet Jones explained:
“The Testlands Support Project is a very exciting charity that helps low income families through funding sports equipment, training sponsorships and holiday workshops. I’m very proud to have met this group of hard working sports coaches who have given their time to raise money for local projects – such as building the Olympic Legacy Playground at Oakwood Primary School.”