Food poverty in the UK, one of the world’s richest countries, is a scandal. It affects a significant minority and excludes them from being fully involved in the social and cultural life of our communities.
In April the Trussell Trust issued their annual report.
The Trussell Trust foodbank network use a voucher-based approach to help people in crisis. The question follows: What crisis would qualify someone for a foodbank voucher?
When household budgets are squeezed it is often a single event such as a change to benefits, sudden loss of income or an unexpected major expense that takes people into crisis. Even then many people can rely on relatives and supportive friends. Sometimes it just can’t be done. When they turn our partner agencies a voucher is issued to them if those professionals believe that it is the best way to help. We always honour a voucher. We don’t judge. Thankfully most people helped by foodbank come out of crisis within 4-6 weeks.
In the most extreme cases food poverty is a chronic situation. Hunger is a daily reality and relief unlikely without significant ongoing intervention and support. For some time we have been concerned about the people for whom foodbank is not working. We are trying out new ideas and building new relationships with people and organisations in our communities who taking positive action to tackle chronic food poverty.
Foodbank are advising the Poverty Truth Commission and working in the Welcome Network to change our approach to be part of the solution to chronic food poverty. In these ways the real experts, the people who experience food poverty, are bringing about real community resilience.
The local picture is more positive than the national situation. Last year was the first that the number of people helped by foodbank was about the same as the year before. Between 1st April 2017 and 31st March 2018, 7615 three day emergency food supplies were provided to local people in crisis by West Cheshire Foodbank, compared to 7684 in the previous year. Of this number, 2724 went to children. We believe it is evidence that West Cheshire Foodbank are of the growing community response to food poverty.
Our focus is local but we continue to be part of a national network campaigning for change, participating in vital research and raising awareness about the issues local people are facing. Stories from our foodbank have contributed to the report issued by Trussell Trust in April.