The headlines this week once again talked about Foodbanks. The recent dramatic rise in the number of them and the people using them has led the Trussell Trust (the organisation behind the largest group of them, including our own) to claim it is a “wake-up call to the nation”. They are concerned that much of this increase was before benefit changes in April which they fear could lead to more people using them than before. We have certainly seen an increase this month, although as yet it is hard to discern why that is.
Statistics released this week show a 170 per cent rise in numbers turning to church-led foodbanks in the last 12 months. The Trussell Trust report claims this is the biggest rise in numbers given emergency food since 2000. Almost 350,000 people have received at least three days emergency food from foodbanks during the last year, nearly 100,000 more than anticipated and close to triple the number helped in 2011-12. Broxbourne Foodbank has collected 16,847.2kg of food in total since it opened last summer, and has given away 10,535.5kg to 1,055 people (625 adults and 430 children). The majority of these are those struggling on low income or getting stuck in the benefit gap when there is a change in circumstances and the benefit system takes a number of weeks before it catches up.
Trussell Trust executive chairman Chris Mould says:
“The sheer volume of people who are turning to foodbanks because they can’t afford food is a wake-up call to the nation that we cannot ignore the hunger on our doorstep. Politicians across the political spectrum urgently need to recognise the real extent of UK food poverty and create fresh policies that better address its underlying causes. This is more important than ever as the impact of the biggest reforms to the welfare state since it began start to take effect. Since 1 April we have already seen increasing numbers of people in crisis being sent to foodbanks with nowhere else to go.”
Clearly all is not right here. Whilst it is exciting that the Foodbank is going well, the fact that we are so busy is concerning. Why is it that in our day and age so many people are struggling at such a basic level? Most are not ‘scroungers’ as some would have us believe, almost all struggle to overcome their embarrassment and come in for the first time. Inevitably the cry will go up, something must be done! To me, in the midst of this bad news story, there is good news. The good news is that it is the churches that have responded and have become a significant part of the answer at that point in need. Is the church irrelevant in today’s society? Many would say yes, but ask the thousand people we have fed in less than a year and I suspect they’ll have quite a different answer!
Church newsletter article, 28.04.13