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Trust calls on Cameron to address 'scandalous' issue of food poverty

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: October 16, 2013

Volunteers at the food bank  at Centenary Methodist Church, Camborne. The co-ordinator of the service says the sharp increase in usage is down to changes to benefits  picture: Colin Higgs

Volunteers at the food bank at Centenary Methodist Church, Camborne. The co-ordinator of the service says the sharp increase in usage is down to changes to benefits picture: Colin Higgs

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David Cameron has come under pressure to address the soaring number of people turning to food banks to feed themselves and their families in parts of the Westcountry.

Food bank volunteers in the region have joined welfare charity the Trussell Trust in calling on the Prime Minister to look into the "scandalous" problem of food poverty.

More than 350,000 people nationally received a three-day food package from the charity between April and September this year – three times as many as the same period last year. And the rapid increase has been matched by food banks in the Westcountry, including at Camborne, Pool, Illogan and Redruth, where 14,000 received food parcels in August, up from 3,200 the previous year.

Trussell Trust executive chairman Chris Mould said the level of food poverty in the UK had reached an unacceptable level.

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"It's scandalous and it is causing deep distress to thousands of people," he said. "The time has come for an official and in-depth inquiry into the causes of food poverty and the consequent rise in the usage of food banks.

"As a nation we need to accept that something is wrong and that we need to act now to stop UK hunger getting worse."

Earlier this year, Chancellor George Osborne suggested food bank use had increased "because people have been made aware of the food bank service through local jobcentres".

However, Donovan Gardener, who runs the food bank in Camborne, Pool, Illogan and Redruth, said in the majority of cases it was down to issues with receiving welfare payment. "We are all finding exactly the same problems," he said. "One of the biggest reasons is that people are hard up on benefits. We are finding now that people are going on to benefits or having to change benefits, but that change can take up to nine weeks. You can be nine weeks without money.

"Our norm is that we provide food for crisis for three weeks – we are having to extend that. People are just getting nothing for eight weeks, they are desperate as they can't pay rent.

"We feel it's getting very serious and somebody has got to get a move on.

"We are using 1,000 tins a week – it's absolutely frightening.

"They've got to get their heads around the fact that people have no money at all."

The trust echoed concerns that some households will have to choose between eating and heating this winter.

"Problems with welfare are not new, they have existed for years – but the reality is that when welfare provision breaks down, people go hungry," continued Mr Mould.

"We're talking about mums not eating for days because they've been sanctioned for seemingly illogical reasons, or people leaving hospital after a major operation to find that their benefits have been stopped or delayed.

"It's not right that so many more people are now being referred to food banks due to problems with welfare, especially as much of this is preventable."

A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said processing times had improved over the last few years.

"Contrary to what these organisations are suggesting, benefit processing times have steadily improved over the past few years. This year the number of benefits processed on time is up four percentage points from the 2009/10 level to 90%," he said.

"The benefits system supports millions of people who are on low incomes or unemployed and there is no evidence that welfare reforms are linked to increased use of food banks.

"In fact, our welfare reforms will improve the lives of some of the poorest families in our communities with the Universal Credit making three million households better off – the majority of these from the bottom two fifths of the income scale."

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5 comments

  • Newquaygreen  |  October 17 2013, 8:33AM

    In Cornwall especially you can buy local grown food really cheap. You don't have to buy pre-packed expensive food. Just plan your meals better. Jamie Oliver has it right on this issue!

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  • ArtfulDodger  |  October 17 2013, 7:57AM

    All governments say what they think is best for the country break, that doesn't make them dictatorships... Channel 5 recently aired a programme 'On benefits and Proud' and it gave you an insight into what people on benefits actually spend their money on....and food was well down their list of priorities. For all of you that know where the foodbank is in Bideford go down there and see who it is that attends... It is the same people that hang around the Quay all day every day drinking Special Brew and Smoking, please don't take my word for it and mark these comments down go and look for yourself :-)

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  • break  |  October 16 2013, 7:42PM

    Makes me wonder what the difference is between this Government,and a dictatorship.Aren't they dictatorships if they say what they're doing is whats best for their country?

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  • Newquaygreen  |  October 16 2013, 3:43PM

    We are creating a culture of free food now as well as benefits. I wonder how many just see this as a way of getting free food when they have the means to pay. More money to spend on other things ;)

    |   -10
  • leolegrande  |  October 16 2013, 1:00PM

    "The Gagging Order" People need to be made aware of this bill which has just been passed (by a small majority) in the house of commons. MP's have voted FOR the Gagging Order which is intended to silence any criticism of the government in the year of election. All organisations (including the one that this news topic relates to) will be banned from stating any facts which are detrimental to the re election of the government. Red Cross will not be allowed to tell us how much aid is being distributed in the UK. Royal British legion will not be able to inform us of what casualties we are suffering in conflicts. In fact, a whole host of non governmental organisations will be silenced so that in election year, no voice of dissent is heard against the government. This is highly undemocratic and smacks of the antics practised by the old USSR. Do not let them get away with this, even the media are failing to report on the passage of this bill through parliament. Tories and Lib Dems are desperate for the bill to go through as they know only too well that the damage they have done so far has severely dented their chances of re election. The bill has now been sent to the House of Lords, please contact as many Lords members as you can to get this Gagging Order kicked out. For the full story go to the website named "38 Degrees", it is an independent site made up for concerned members of the public. I have no ties to the site and no obligations to it, but I do think everyone should be made aware of just what is happening in Parliament. Contact the Lords to protest this bill

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