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Bishop's Stortford Food Bank joins plea to Government to tackle poverty: 'It is not for volunteers to plug the gaps left by a broken social security system and poorly-paid jobs'



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Bishop's Stortford Food Bank has signed a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak calling on their Government to tackle "rapidly rising levels of poverty, destitution and hunger".

The charity, based at the Methodist Church in South Street, is a member of the Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN), which speaks for aid providers operating across the UK, including over 550 independent food banks.

The letter spelled out the scale of the task they face: "We are deeply concerned about the scale of suffering that we are already witnessing as well as our capacity to prevent people from going hungry in the weeks and months to come.

Food bank volunteers, from left, Pippa Boutell, co-ordinator Hana Hainsby and Jane Groom. Pic: Vikki Lince
Food bank volunteers, from left, Pippa Boutell, co-ordinator Hana Hainsby and Jane Groom. Pic: Vikki Lince

"An emergency supply of food cannot resolve someone's financial crisis and will only act as a temporary sticking plaster.

"Measures must be urgently introduced to decisively increase people's incomes through the social security system, 'emergency cash first' support and wage increases combined with job security."

The food banks set out the measures they believe the Government must take:

  • benefits must be uprated by at least 8% in line with inflation;
  • removal of five-week wait for Universal Credit, benefit cap, two-child limit, sanctions system and No Recourse to Public Funds status;
  • wages should match the cost of living and job security must be ensured;
  • crisis payments must be available in cash, easily accessible and well promoted in every local authority in the UK.
Hertford and Stortford MP Julie Marson on a visit to the food bank – from left, chair of trustees Bill Macdonald, the MP, trustee Jim Tatchell, co-ordinator Hana Hainsby, the Rev Gill Hulme and Cllr Norma Symonds. Pic: Vikki Lince
Hertford and Stortford MP Julie Marson on a visit to the food bank – from left, chair of trustees Bill Macdonald, the MP, trustee Jim Tatchell, co-ordinator Hana Hainsby, the Rev Gill Hulme and Cllr Norma Symonds. Pic: Vikki Lince

The letter continued: “It is the Government’s responsibility to ensure that everybody in our society can afford food and other essentials. It is not for volunteers to plug the gaps left by a broken social security system and poorly-paid jobs.

"Over the past 12 years, our members have worked tirelessly, in often extremely challenging circumstances, to support hundreds of thousands of people in communities across the UK. However, there is a limit to food banks’ capacity to support the numbers of people seeking their help.”

The charities said those who had previously donated groceries were now seeking help themselves.

Jane Groom sorting cereals. Pic: Vikki Lince (56285930)
Jane Groom sorting cereals. Pic: Vikki Lince (56285930)

"Charitable food aid has been an inadequate and unsustainable stop-gap measure to growing poverty in the UK for 12 years. We urge you to immediately address the root causes of the poverty driving the need for our services. Food banks are reaching breaking point,” they warned.

Over the Easter school holidays, Aldi donated surplus stock to charities in Hertfordshire to provide 3,995 meals to people in need. Around 105 tonnes of food were donated across the UK, with more than 187,000 meals expected to go to causes focused on supporting families and children.

Jane Groom sorting cereals. Pic: Vikki Lince (56285930)
Jane Groom sorting cereals. Pic: Vikki Lince (56285930)

The donations followed research from Aldi and community-giving platform Neighbourly which found that every single food bank in the East of England region has seen demand soar since the start of the year.

Neighbourly polled more than 700 food banks and community causes nationwide and found an estimated 31% of people using these services in the East in recent months have been new to food banks.

Food banks in the region reported an average rise in demand of around 28% for their services so far this year, with expectations of further increases of around 33% in the next three months as higher energy bills and an increase in National Insurance contributions add to the pressure.

Aldi has community donation points in stores, including its London Road branch in Bishop's Stortford, and is encouraging customers to donate tinned food, tea and coffee, UHT milk, toiletries and household cleaning products.



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