People going hungry in the UK has been a quiet secret for a number of years now, often only seen by volunteers dealing with an increasing number of families turning to food banks.
The Tressel Trust alone reported figures: for the year 2007/08 of 4,000 people requesting food help; for the year 2008/09 26,000 people required aid; the year 2009/10 41,000; for 2010/11 there was 61,000; and for 2011/12 there was 128,000. The projected number for the current years had been 200,000 but this number has ballooned to 500,000 people requesting help with food from this organisation alone.
Tressel Trust operates largely in the south of the country and these figures are not a complete picture of the situation by any means. Local councils, churches, Salvation Army, trade unions and other organisations are desperately trying to keep up with the increasing demand for their services. Even the Red Cross are providing food parcels to prevent starvation in this country for the first time since the Second World War!
A recent online petition organised by Jack Monroe received 142,000 signatures requesting a debate in Parliament on this issue. The subsequent debate was held on Wednesday, December 19th. Tory MPs jeered and hooted as Labour MP Fiona Mactaggart told of shocking scenes at her local supermarket in Slough as people fought to grab cut price fruit and veg from shelves!
Other MPs told similar harrowing stories of their constituents. An ex-Serviceman who was forced to turn to a food bank while waiting four weeks for ATOS to deal with his appeal. The story of two hungry boys who asked for a packet of cereals and a packet of drinking chocolate as a treat. A man whose benefits were sanctioned after he was unable to turn up for an interview as he was visiting his wife who was dying of cancer in hospital.
Senior Tory ministers, notably Iain Duncan Smith and David Cameron, refused to speak and callously left the chamber, leaving Junior Minister Esther McVey to speak for the Government.
She claimed it was a good thing that more people were turning to food banks! Quote: “It is right to say more people are visiting food banks as we would expect!”
“It is positive people are reaching out to support others”. She claimed this was all part of paying back the £1.5t. in debt. What she didn’t touch upon was that bankers’ earnings have risen by 35% in the same year that the Tressell Trust reports a half million people in food poverty.
Our own MP Andrew Stephenson did as he always does and voted with the Government. This tends to make a mockery of his February, 2013, visit to St Philip’s Food Bank in Nelson. Or perhaps he believes, like Esther McVey, it is a good thing that more people become dependent on food banks as each year of this Government passes!
And, of course, last but not least, the craven Lib-Dems voted cringingly with the Government, as ever! Isn’t it funny how we never seem to hear any criticism of the parliamentary party from our own renown, local Lib-Dem grandee. We must assume this silence is acquiescence, a broad front with the Tories?