The number of people forced to use food banks has seen a shocking increase over the past few years. Food poverty charity The Trussell Trust estimate that they’re now handing out 28 times the number of emergency food parcels that they were providing in 2010.
But the Trussell Trust is just one food bank provider, and they only record the number of people attending their own food banks. The true extent of the issue is likely to be much, much worse. In my constituency, the number of people reported to have accessed food banks last year was 60,000. But without an official measure, the true figure is estimated as double that.
Despite repeated calls for the Government to collect and publish statistics on the true scale of the problem, they have refused. Instead, the Tories seem content with blaming the victims of food poverty. And appalling statements suggesting that people reliant on food banks have a “cash flow problem”, recently uttered by Justice Minister Dominic Raab, only reinforce this.
According to the Trussell Trust, there are three main reasons families are forced to attend food banks; low or insecure income, delays to benefit payments when they unexpectedly find themselves in hardship, and benefit sanctions. These reasons prop up again and again when my constituents contact me about having to rely on food packages to feed their kids. In fact, 47% of all food packages delivered this year went to families with primary school aged children.
One in five children arrive at school hungry, and a YouGov poll suggests at least a third of teachers have bought food for pupils as a result of hunger in the classroom. So for many, the free school meals provided during term time are the only hot dinner their children will have all day. But during the six week summer holidays, thousands of children who depend on these meals are at risk of going hungry. And with extra childcare costs, things only become more difficult.
Established in 2007, the team at Can Cook in my constituency are doing amazing work to try to combat this. This year their Share Your Lunch initiative offers struggling families fresh, nutritious and balanced food during the school summer break. In conjunction with the Liverpool Echo, they’ve managed to raise £20,000 this year for the Liverpool City Region and currently cook and serve 600 meals a day.
Last week I met with their founder Robbie Davidson and some of the mums volunteering to distribute fresh, healthy and balanced meals to families at Garston adventure playground. Robbie told me how they’d worked hard to come up with an exciting and accessible ‘Around the World’ theme to make sure the meals are varied and appealing. And the parents I met there were full of praise for the food on offer.
The Share Your Lunch Scheme really is a lifeline for these families and many others in my constituency, and Can Cook do amazing work to address the issues surrounding food poverty and support those hit the hardest by Tory cuts.
But parents should not be forced to rely on the work of charities to feed their kids. Something needs to change. But if the Tories are allowed to continue in Government, the situation for many is only likely to get worse.
To support Can Cook and their Share Your Lunch Campaign, click here: