A new report has revealed that South East England has seen a huge increases in food bank use, despite being the 2nd wealthiest part of the UK after London.
The report by Keith Taylor, The Green Party’s Member of the European Parliament for the South East, reveals that food bank use in his constituency is up over 60% this year and that thousands of families will face the prospect of relying on emergency food handouts this Christmas. A decade ago food banks were almost unheard of in South East England but there are now 59 across the region.
The report is published ahead of a debate on Food Banks in Parliament on Thursday. It shows that food banks are spreading out from the poorest parts of the country to areas previously thought of as ‘well off’.
With spending pressures mounting at Christmas, and wages stagnating, more families than ever are expected to use food banks over the festive period.
The report, which shows an explosion in the number of Food Banks in the last few years, details the reasons people are forced to seek emergency food handouts. 33% of people needing handouts are facing benefits delays, while 19% cite benefits changes as their reason for visiting the food banks and 18.5% point to low incomes as their reason for needing help.
Keith Taylor, the Green Party MEP who authored the report, said:
“Food banks are a lifeline to those in need and, sadly, one of Britain’s booming industries. Across the South East demand for emergency food is soaring while people’s 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. In the sixth largest economy in the world no-one should be relying on emergency food handouts at Christmas, it’s a national disgrace.”
Mr Taylor went on to call on the Government to release a report on food banks that they’ve been accused of ‘suppressing’:
“The Government must release their report on food banks as soon as possible. It’s clear that we have a desperate situation in this country that needs addressing yet the Government seem to want to avoid changing direction.
To address the food bank epidemic we need to see people paid decent wages and a social security system that doesn’t let people slip through the net into desperation.”
Natalie Bennett, Green Party leader, said:
“This report is a timely indication of how many people will be struggling to feed their families this Christmas. This brilliant report from the office of Green MEP, Keith Taylor, highlights the fact that the so-called recovery is clearly leaving many people behind.
The fact that food banks have increased so prevalently all over the country is an indictment on this government’s policies on jobs and welfare. People are desperate. The majority of people on benefits are in work but often so poorly paid that they cannot afford to live above the poverty line.
The government must make the minimum wage a Living Wage and make sure benefits are paid fairly to ensure that food banks are no longer necessary.”
In a letter to the British Medical Journal a group of Doctors and senior Scientists, including Dr David Taylor-Robinson and Professor Margaret Whitehead of Liverpool University’s Department of Public Health, said:
“Malnutrition in children is particularly worrying because exposures during sensitive periods can have lifelong effects, increasing the risk of cardiovascular diseases and other adult chronic diseases”.
The report, ‘Hungry Christmas’, can be found here: