Today’s Star columnist: Patrick Meleady

Patrick Meleady
Patrick Meleady
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Here in Sheffield and the UK generally there has been an explosion in food poverty and recent national research has identified that 500,000 people are now reliant on food aid.

People donating food and food banks in our area are doing a fantastic job.

The people using food banks are diverse and often surprising and the research identifies that the increase in people using them is caused by unemployment, increasing underemployment, a high incidence of people, who were once employed now forced into redundancy or laid off from work, along with low and falling income, and rising cost of living.

The National Minimum Wage and benefits have not risen in line with inflation, and people cannot retain the ability to live with dignity and cannot afford to feed and clothe themselves.

Up to half of all people turning to food banks are doing so as a result of having benefit payments delayed, reduced, or withdrawn, along with changes to crisis loan eligibility rules, delays in payments, Jobseekers’ Allowance sanctions and sickness benefit reassessments. Research also shows that 22 per cent of households helped are employed and half are families with children, and nearly half of these are two-parent families.

Food banks throughout our region report that they have seen an increase in ex-public servants and those who once had better paid jobs in other sectors, now becoming reliant upon food banks too, which shows that it takes only a few pay cheques before families face food poverty and destitution in our nation today.

All of these factors have been forcing children into destitution, hardship and hunger on a large scale, with one in five parents in the UK daily struggling to feed their children and with more than two thirds of those helped by food banks having children who are going to nursery and school hungry, trying to learn, and then going to bed hungry.

In a nation as rich as the UK, food poverty is a national disgrace, and is an absolute contradiction to the UK’s commitment of ensuring that all its citizens have access to food. Food is one of the most basic of all human rights. Something needs to be done, and fast by those holding power and influence.