The Need for Food Banks

There are currently no food banks in the Beckenham Constituency.  In fact the nearest food banks I can locate are in Orpington, going East, or North West to Battersea.  In principle they work as follows.  People needing emergency food supplies are normally given food bank vouchers social workers or doctors.  At the food bank they are then presented with three days’ worth of food.

 Of course it is tragic that food banks are necessary.  Some have argued that the situation in the UK is dire compared to other countries but that may not be borne out by facts.  I understand that one in 88 people visit food banks in France whereas one in 181 do so in this country.  According to the leading food bank charity, the Trussell Trust, out of a population of 63 million in UK, 60,000 visit food banks whereas, in Germany, with a population of 82 million, about 1,500,000 rely on them.  Across the Atlantic in Canada, with a 35 million population, some 830,000 use food banks.  I say this to explain that the food bank problem is not unique to this country.

  What can be done?  Well, the best way for dependence on food banks to reduce is to get more people off benefits – whether they be working benefits or not.  It is excellent news that the Coalition Government has increased people in employment since 2010 by 1,250,000.  In addition it has taken 2,700,000 people out of tax altogether, raising the tax threshold and 25 million people in total have had their taxes cut.  I emphasise this because if people have more money the number needing food banks would drop in some form of proportion. 

  Some suggest cutting the Spare Room Subsidy (incorrectly dubbed the Bedroom Tax) has forced more people to go to food banks.  But all the Coalition Government has done is extend the measure from private to social housing.  In fact the last Government introduced the Spare Room Subsidy in 2008 but only for private housing!  If it is necessary, which it seems it is, then fairness should prevail.  Others suggest that Zero Hours Contracts have increased since 2010 and are another reason for people going to food banks.  But there were as many people on Zero Hours Contracts in 2000 as in 2013.

 Like everyone I dislike the idea and need for food banks which are largely run by charities; such as the Trussell Trust and churches.  But, in fairness, the Government also gives money to food banks.  For instance 81 Trussell Trust run food bank franchises have received Government funding.

 Finally I dearly wish there was no need for food banks.  But clearly there is a requirement for them. I recognise this fact and will do all I can to reduce dependency on them both now and in future.