Today has seen coverage in various media reports of yet another study on food banks and food bank use – there’s little new here, and little that those involved haven’t been saying to Government since at least 2012 – but somehow it falls upon closed ears.
This “new” major study from researchers at Oxford University and King’s College London has tried to get beyond the stereotypes, looking at those using the Trussell Trust’s network of food banks.
“In the most basic terms, these are people with many overlapping forms of “destitution”.
They have been missing meals, often for days at a time, going without heating and electricity. One in five had slept rough in recent months.
They are at the lowest end of the low-income spectrum, with an average income below £320 per month, described as living in “extreme financial vulnerability”.
These are usually people of working age, middle-aged rather than young or old, mostly living in rented accommodation.
About five out of six are without a job and depending on benefits”.
(Source BBC News)
The Prime Minister, Theresa May, famously stumbled early in the election campaign when she seemed to wave off food bank use by describing the reasons people use them as “complex”. Likewise another Tory MP Dominic Raab brought comments when he said that many people use food banks as a response to “cash flow” issues. These responses are deliberately obtuse, or else a callous twisting of the reality of many peoples lives. The precarious nature of many of the poorest incomes do indeed mean that food banks become a lifeline when making harsh financial choices; “Should I put money in the gas meter or buy food?” – “Should I feed my children – or buy the new school shoes I’ve been told to buy to avoid the social worker being called?” Yes these are real comments, yes I’ve heard them directly with my own ears, and if Dominic Raab wants to call that a “cash flow problem”, or Theresa May thinks its all “complex” then I think they need to examine their consciences a little more.
Over the past few weeks our shelves at Pxi-Parson Cross Initiative Projects have been getting more and more depleted, and have required more and more topping up. We’ve spent nearly another £100 this week alone on food in addition to that donated directly.
We are nearing a crisis point – what happens then I genuinely do not know.