Thursday, 5 March 2015

Leeds J&P commission survey finds hunger crisis far worse that previously estimated by foodbank analysis

A major survey conducted by Leeds Diocesan Justice and Peace Commission has found that the food aid crisis in Britain is far bigger than previously estimated.
The survey of 88 parishes in West Yorkshire found that there is a huge amount of food aid being delivered to people under the radar, as it were, by organisations like the Catholic charity the St Vincent De Paul Society (SVP). “Half of those responding had provided food to the Trussell Trust foodbank but half as many again give food through the SVP,” says the report.

Examples of other forms of food aid, beyond foodbanks, included churches providing hot meal and delivering food parcels to those in need.
The report found more than 50% of parishes in West Yorkshire actively involved in providing food aid  via food banks and other support mechanisms. 

Chairing a conference titled: Foodbanks: charity or injustice, former Labour MP, John Battle declared that the Trussell Trust figures of 900,000 people nationally going to foodbanks in the last year was under representing the true level of food aid being provided by at least two thirds.

The research also discovered the very high level of involvement by Catholic parishes in helping people survive. Some 40% of those surveyed had been involved for between one and three years, reflecting the massive growth in the need for foodbanks over that period. Another 23% had been involved for less than a year.

“This comprehensive research shows the Catholic Church massively involved in emergency food aid,” said Mr Battle, who pointed out that it was low pay and benefits sanctioning that were the main drivers for the increase in demand. “Foodbanks are being substituted for proper support.”

Underlining the crucial role of low pay in driving the demand for foodbanks, Mr Battle quoted an individual he knows who stacks shelves in a supermarket. “If he gets a week when he has short hours, he will be going from the supermarket to the foodbank to pick up some of the food he has stacked to support his own family,” said Mr Battle.

There was a strong call from many present at the Leeds conference to not merely seek to meet the ever growing demand for food aid but to question why this is happening in 21st century Britain. “It struck me listening to the testimonies how shocking it was that in Britain in 2015 that people have to lose their dignity in order to get enough food to eat,” said Joe Burns, Leeds Diocesan J&P Commission foodbank survey co-ordinator.

The Leeds Diocesan Justice and Peace Commission is making the demand for a right to eat as the central plank of its general election campaign.

There are to be 10 questions drawn up from the survey process and commission day asking prospective candidates what their answer would be to the food aid crisis.  “The outcome of the survey and conference show that Catholic parishes are involved at the rock face of this food poverty issue, it is now for us to hold the politicians to account. Our representatives must back the right to eat,” said Mr Battle.

*"Diocese handing out food in 40 parishes" - Tablet, 7/3/2015

*Food crisis even worse than first thought - Battle - Morning Star, 4/3/2015

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