Hilary Benn writes – Foodbanks


Photo courtesy of Trussell Trust
Photo courtesy of Trussell Trust

Comment logo 1The growth of food banks has been really noticeable in the last few years. In our city there are now five open or about to start work, including one operating in South Leeds. Across Yorkshire and Humberside the number of people – adults and children – needing help from foodbanks has jumped enormously from 3,202 in 2011/12 to 18,739 in just the last nine months alone. And nationally, the Trussell Trust says 500,000 people – a third of them children – have relied on foodbanks since April last year.

The reasons why this is happening are not hard to find. Benefit changes like the bedroom tax and council tax benefit cuts. The cost of gas, electricity, food and petrol all going up (two people came to a recent advice surgery and said they are afraid to put the heating on). People who haven’t had a wage increase for some time, or whose hours or wages have been cut. Benefit sanctions (which I wrote about last month). The disappearance of crisis loans. And sudden catastrophic changes in people’s lives. Desertion by a partner, illness or redundancy can all result in people having no money because it takes time to get help sorted out. But in the meantime, there’s no food on the table, and some people who turn up haven’t eaten for days.

Even in these circumstances it takes a lot for someone to put their pride on one side and ask for help. That so many people are doing just that shows just how big a problem this is.

The South Leeds foodbank is open on Tuesdays from 10.00am – 12.00pm at Middleton Methodist Church, Hopewell View, Middleton, Leeds LS10 3TE and on Fridays from 1.30pm – 3.30pm at the Health For All Café, Belle Isle Road, Belle Isle, Leeds LS10 3PG. For enquiries please contact: 07580 873 170 or email: info@leedssouth.foodbank.org.uk

How can we all help? By getting involved and donating money or food (dried and packet foods are what they really want). Volunteering – there’s lot to do. Fundraising. Encouraging local supermarkets to back collections – as a number have done. And making sure that people know where they can get help.

We should thank all of the volunteers who are working so hard to help people in our community of South Leeds who are going through a tough time, but we also have a wider responsibility. And that is to ask this question: how come in the sixth biggest global economy at the start of the 21st century we have so many people who are unable to feed themselves and their families ?

Something is badly wrong and we need to sort it out.

Hilary Benn, Member of Parliament for Leeds Central

5 Replies to “Hilary Benn writes – Foodbanks”

  1. I agree with everything you say in this article and think that it is a travesty that people are starving and struggling to feed their children or heat their homes (few can afford to do both nowadays).
    I also think it shameful that we have an ever increasing foreign aid budget that I believe stands at around £12bn, which I feel could be better spent on our own starving, homeless and desperate families. In fact, it’s an almost identical amount that the conservatives want to further strip from our benefits budget, thereby putting some of the most vulnerable in our society into further poverty and trouble. Surely it makes sense to look after our own vulnerable before sending aid packages to India and Nigeria who both have space programmes, and even Argentina who are sabre-rattling about the Falklands….again.
    Will you commit to addressing this issue both in parliament and at party level to better reflect the views of many labour supporters, and maybe even win some of them back?

    1. Dear Craig Sweaton
      Thanks very much for your comments.
      On the help we give to those living in dire poverty in other countries, we are talking about children who would otherwise die for want of vaccinations or clean water or who have never had the chance to go to school at all. They are our neighbours too and I think we need to help both them and our own who are forced to resort to foodbanks.
      It’s not a competition between the two it is about the choices we make.
      best wishes
      Hilary Benn

      1. Dear Mr. Benn
        Firstly, thank you for your reply.
        While I empathise entirely with the poor and sick in other parts of the world and your point about children living in “dire poverty” in other countries, I feel you are failing the people in our country that also need help.
        Child poverty currently stands at an average of over 20% across the England but, this rises to as much as 40% in some areas in the North! This being the case, food banks and charitable organisations will be under ever increasing pressure and with welfare cuts expected and promised this year, children will become more vulnerable than ever.
        I absolutely do not want to see overseas aid cut entirely but I do think that we should be much more careful about how much, and to whom it is distributed. The EU’s own figures show that less than 18% of foreign aid gets to it’s intended recipients and I would argue that much of the other 82% is stolen by warlords and despots.
        I just want to see a Britain that is financially strong enough to be able to help others in dire need (wherever in the world they are), and to maintain that in the long term, we need to ensure our own youth are growing up into a sustainable future where no child has to miss a meal! As a school governor I have seen the impact that missing meals has on a childs’ education.
        I don’t see it as a competition between “us &amp them” but I do think the old saying ‘Charity begins at home’ is as pertinent now as it has ever been.

  2. There is also a food-bank in Holbeck which is run jointly by Holbeck Christian Fellowship and Mosaic church which would be grateful for donations too. It does not get as much publicity as it is run independently and is not part of the Trussell Trust, but it still has loads of clients.

  3. Eve

    Thanks for this.

    if you want to provide more information about the Holbeck Food Bank we’d be happy to publish it.

Comments are closed.