Here is Keith’s introduction to his new report, Hungry Christmas:
Food banks are a lifeline to people in desperate need and, sadly, they are one of Britain’s few booming industries.
Across the UK demand for emergency food is soaring while peoples’ wages stagnate and the cost of living shoots up.
This report reveals a shameful side of the British economy that the government is trying to hide. Although the research is focussed on my own constituency, the same patterns can be seen up and down the UK.
The data from my constituency makes for shocking reading. Every county in the South East has seen more people using food banks this year than at any time since the records began.
Amidst all of the statistics in this report, it’s all too easy to forget that each food parcel handed out goes to someone in real need. As I’ve toured my region this year, visiting food banks and meeting both clients and volunteers, I’ve been struck by the quiet desperation affecting people across my constituency.
People like John, who I met in Portsmouth. He was volunteering for a local food bank after receiving help from them at a time in his life when he was facing lots of problems. He’d lost his good job, his accommodation, before developing a drug habit and drifting into street drinking, until, eventually, he reached rock-bottom. He told me he thought that a lack of food was the least of his worries: he explained that he could always resort to scavenging or begging. But he realised that eventually he needed to get back to a ‘normal life’ and regular meals, otherwise he would die.
I also met Mary, a single parent who just can’t keep up with the expense of clothing and feeding her children, and who often goes without food herself so her kids can eat. For her, the food bank was a lifeline at a time of desperation. Shockingly, the hardships facing John and Mary, who live in the sixth largest economy in the world, is happening in the face of prosperity for the wealthiest in society. Theinequality between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ in the South East is startling, and must be addressed.
This report aims to highlight the hardship faced by thousands across the South East of England, and indeed up and down the UK.
Some will say that poverty is inevitable, no matter what you do. Greens reject this. For us, poverty is political and its elimination will always be a top priority. I believe there’s often a reluctance to seek charity in this country—that so many see no alternative is a damning indictment of government policy.