As previous visitors to the blog may know, I had a bit of trouble when claiming Income Support a while back.
During the time I was waiting for my claim to go through, the co-ordinator of my local Home Start, Becky, just happened to call to chat about something else. She asked how we were getting on, and I mentioned the situation I was in regarding money. I commented I thought it was ridiculous that people with a child to feed were expected to wait so long before receiving any money.
Becky asked me if I'd like her to get the Trussell Trust to bring me some food, and I said no, thanks; that's for people who really need it. I had been sent some Healthy Start vouchers, and so could buy some fresh fruit and veggies; I was sure we'd be fine. Becky pointed out though, that you can't really live just on fruit and vegetables, and need basic staples to go with them. So that evening a nice man brought me some food. And not just food; there were nappies, wipes, and even some chocolate! There was also a printed sheet with suggested meal options to help make sure the food in the box was used to its best potential. Trussell Trust food boxes are meant to last 3 days, but mine lasted me about a week.
The Trussell Trust released their annual figures this week; some of you may have noticed I was briefly featured on BBC Breakfast News about it. In the last 12 months, the number of families helped by the Trussell Trust has almost trebled: 346,992 is the final figure for the number of families who received at least 3 day's supply of food from them. This is an increase of 170% on last year.
You know how I love my charts, so here's a nice colourful one to illustrate the point:
Chris Mould is the Executive Chairman of the Trussell Trust:
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 April 1st we have already seen increasing numbers of people in crisis being sent to foodbanks with nowhere else to go.
Lasy year the Trussell Trust estimated that our foodbanks would help 250,000 people in 2012-13; we've helped 100,000 more than that. 2012-13 was much tougher for people than many anticipated. Incomes are being squeezed to breaking point. We're seeing people from all kinds of backgrounds turning to foodbanks: working people coming in on their lunch breaks, mums who are going hungry to feed their children, people whose benefits have been delayed and people who are struggling to find enough work. It's shocking that people are going hungry in 21st century Britain.
He's right; it is shocking. I expect a few people were shocked to see that I'd had to use a foodbank. When the service was first offered to me my initial response was "oh no, that's for people who really need it; I'm not one of those people." but it turned out, actually I was one of those people. In this day and age we all have the potential to be one of those people. And realistically, if we're lucky enough to not be one of those people, perhaps we should be one of the people donating to the foodbanks in order to keep them going. You never know when you might need their help.
Here are some fun facts about the Trussell Trust:
- They are Christian organisation that provides three days' non-perishable food to people in need.
- Over 90% of the food given out is donated by the public.
- The Trussell Trust currently have 345 foodbanks across the UK. They are opening 3 new foodbanks each week, and estimate there would need to be 750-1000 in order to help people in crisis across the UK. Don't you think that's a bit disgusting, in Britain, in this day and age?
- The Trussell Trust does not receive any government funding.
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