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Real UK families rely on food parcels – in 2011

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Summary of story from The Guardian, December 19, 2011

Edwina Currie may deny it, but the shocking truth is that in Britain today many people have to choose between eating and paying the rent.

Broadcaster and former politician Currie said on Radio 5 Live recently that she “really had great difficulty” believing that people in Britain went without food.

According to the former Conservative minister, there are “real” people starving in this world, but not in the UK.

The Clarke family from Amesbury disagree. For them, money is so tight they have relied on food parcels from their local foodbank several times this year.

Mandi Clarke said: “We would have been having beans on toast this Christmas if it weren’t for the foodbank.” Instead they will be given a box containing mince pies, cheese and sweet biscuits, chocolate, a Christmas pudding, crisps, dates and tinned ham.

Ms Clarke added: “We had to choose between paying for food, heating or rent.

“Thanks to the food hamper, we could sit down and eat together as a family for the first time in weeks. We’d been telling the children we’d eat when they’d gone to bed, but the reality was we were going without.”

Foodbanks were launched in 2000 by the Trussle Trust and the demand for their help has grown in the past year. There are now 163 foodbanks around the country; more than one has opened each week during the course of 2011.

People who have no money to buy food are referred to their local service by GPs, Citizens Advice, social workers, charities, and school liaison officers.

Each person or family is entitled to three vouchers at a time, and each voucher can be exchanged for a bag of emergency food that lasts three days.

Despite Currie’s assertions, there are plenty of people in Britain in need of this help. The Salisbury foodbank alone saw an increase of 600 people seeking help in 2011, from 3,300 to 3,900 – an 18 per cent rise.

Since the beginning of the recession, the longest-running foodbanks have seen increases of between 15 and 30 per cent, and an increase in the number of middle-class people seeking help and young people.

The foodbanks are believed to reduce crime, health breakdowns and homelessness, because getting free food means people can concentrate on paying their rent or mortgage.

And Edwina Currie may deny it, but the shocking truth is that in Britain today many people have to choose between eating and paying the rent.

  1. Edwina Curry’s remarks echo the ‘Let them eat cake’ attitude attributed to Marie Antoinette in 18th century France.

    I know that many families, particularly single mother families have to choose between food and rent. Ruth Lister, and the Women’s Budget group, are aware that women tend to act as ‘shock absorbers’ of poverty by going without food themselves so that their children can eat.

    I was in this position when my children were small. Now my daughter, also a single parent because she has left a violent relationship, is also unable to afford both food and rent. At the moment, I am able to help her out financially but thats not the point – we should not be living in a society where low wages, punitive benefit rates and cuts combine to push mainly women and children into poverty and hunger. There is a huge gap between rich and poor now, with many over privileged people avoiding taxes or arguing against a measure of redisribution of wealth. Its a national disgrace.

    • vicki wharton says:

      As a single parent myself, albeit with financial help from my daughter’s father, I would say that Ms Currie should spend her time concentrating on the issues that make so many fathers unliveable with due to violence, drug use, porn use or other socially destructive behaviour. Maybe if they did relationship and fathering classes in schools to better prepare boys for the responsibilities of being an adult in their own family unit, then we might have less need for food parcels by so many single parent families. Leaving boys to educate themselves via porn on how to behave in relationships is a public health problem every bit as pressing as obesity etc. And maybe capping rent rises, bankers pay and fuel costs might help too. We have a minimum wage, why not a maximum one to stop the greedy buggers who take way more than their fair share of the cake.

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