Stark choice of heat or eat

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THE need for families to go to food banks for emergency supplies conjures up images of Dickensian Britain.

Sadly, it is the sign of a 2012 Britain where poorer people are becoming more impoverished and unable to feed their families.

Food banks are not the equivalent of soup kitchens set up on street corners or in halls to provide nourishment for the homeless.

These food banks are a relatively new phenomena reflecting the fact that vulnerable families, with roofs over their heads, simply cannot afford to live in today’s society.

And recent evidence uncovered by this newspaper reveals there has been a significant increase in the number of families needing help in the past 12 months, with a threefold increase in food banks in the city.

One bank set up in April has already provided 14,000 emergency meals to needy families.

The worst thing about it is not that people will rely on them for sustenance over Christmas, but that experts and social commentators think the number of banks will increase as further cuts to benefits are introduced next year.

And there is a real fear more families will be unable to cope with the increased demand next year when bills start coming in.

Families are having to make stark decisions, eat or heat.

What sort of reflection is that on today’s society?

In praise of our glorious Gloria

HALLELUJAH for glorious Gloria Stewart.

This amazingly kind Ecclesfield pensioner embodies the true spirit of Yuletide goodwill. For the last four years and against seemingly insurmountable odds, the grandmother now known throughout Sheffield as Mrs Christmas has thrown a party for folk resigned to being alone or isolated on December 25.

It’s an afternoon of festive peace, love and joy for those Christmas would otherwise forget. Gloria moves heaven and earth to make it happen and yesterday she did it again as 250 people enjoyed her fifth heart-warming event.

What is so remarkable about this woman is her willingness to make other people a little happier and her tenacity. She overcomes any obstacle in her way, whether it’s major illness or a huge shortfall in the kitty.

And there’s her amazing ability to bring out the kindness in others. The Home Alone lunch wouldn’t happen without the ever-growing army of Gloria’s angels. A very merry Christmas and heart-felt thanks to them all.