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The scandal of food banks

Hannah Kathryn.

Never did I think that a trip to Tesco to buy some milk would reduce me to tears, but today it did. As I walked in the doors I was greeted by a sight that I had never in my lifetime seen before:

Food Bank Donations.

Food Bank Donations.

Where at Halloween there had been pumpkins, and in the summer there had been disposable barbecues, now there stands a collection point for Rochdale Food Bank. I just stopped and stared.

“It’s terrible, isn’t it?” said the young Tesco employee who was handing out flyers to shoppers, asking them to support ‘local people in crisis’. Speechless, I just nodded. I’d heard that people were resorting to food banks to feed their families, but until I’d seen it for myself, the reality of the situation hadn’t really hit home.

And that reality is that people who live in my town, within walking distance of my house, children, elderly people, people my age, people who I may have gone to school with, do not have enough to eat. This Christmas it’s not only people in Rwanda and Romania who need our help, but also those in Rotherham and Rochdale.

On the way back from Tesco the news came on the radio, in which George Osborne announced that the Government will be making further cuts to the welfare bill when they introduce their new budget in April – cuts that will have the most savage effect on those who are already on living on the breadline.

The cuts that the coalition Government are making are being made in the wrong places, the Government are cutting too deep, and they are hitting the poorest hardest. They are slashing £20 billion from the welfare budget by 2014, and prioritising cuts to welfare and public services over taxes on wealthy individuals, banks, and financial transactions, whilst refusing to close tax loopholes.

George Osborne cites the need for economic recovery as the driving force behind his vicious austerity agenda, but he has got it all wrong. He’s trying to recover the economy far too quickly – fewer cuts over a longer period of time would still get Britain’s finances back on track, without hurting the most vulnerable in society and dismantling the welfare state in the process.

Some people in need are reluctant to use food banks because they are embarrassed that they have to, but it is not them who should be ashamed, it is the Government. It is absolutely scandalous that in this day and age people living in the 7th richest country in the world cannot feed their families, and that the number of children living in poverty in Britain is now increasing by an average of 100,000 per year.

But as the UK Government are failing the poorest so badly, it is laudable that voluntary organisations are stepping in to help those most in need. Tesco will increase donations made to food banks through their stores by 30%, and Sainsburys are matching donated items like-for-like. Yes, the motivation behind this may not be purely charitable, as after all, they are encouraging customers to buy items in their stores that they wouldn’t have otherwise bought, but the way I see it, if I’m going to give to a food bank anyway, I might as well do it through a supermarket, so that the food bank can get the most out of my donation.

If you’d like to make a donation, a food bank near you will be accepting the following items, please give whatever you can afford:

  • UHT or powdered milk
  • Sugar
  • Tea bags and instant coffee
  • Fruit juice and cordial
  • Cereal
  • Soup
  • Pasta and pasta sauces
  • Rice
  • Instant mashed potato
  • Tinned vegetables and fruit
  • Tinned tomatoes
  • Tinned meat & fish
  • Tinned puddings
  • Jam and honey
  • Biscuits and snack bars
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