Thousands of people rely on food handouts as recession bites
Thousands of people every week are relying on food handouts from charities, as the recession causes an increasing number to go hungry.
By Harry Wallop, Consumer Affairs Editor
Telegraph, 26 May 2009
Foodbank, a charity that gives emergency boxes of food to people than can not afford to buy any groceries, has released figures indicating it helped 24,000 people in the 12 months to April.
This was a substantial increase on the 10,000 it helped the year before.
The charity, run by the Trussell Trust, is just one of many organisations, such as the Salvation Army, which are witnessing a sharp jump in the number of people unable to feed themselves during the recession.
In total, there are estimated to be thousands of people each week going hungry, with most of the Salvation Army's 700 community centres around the country recording an increase in people requesting emergency food parcels.
Chris Mould, director at Foodbank, said: "When someone suddenly loses their job, or walks out on their family, there can be a real crisis if they are on marginal pay. They may have no savings and find accessing the benefits system very hard. That's when we step in."
The charity accepts donations of non-perishable food, such as tinned vegetables and fruit, breakfast cereal, UHT milk, biscuits, pasta and sugar and then parcels them up into boxes, which provide three-day emergency rations. The donations are mostly made by individuals, though food companies occassionaly give unwanted stock.
Local GPs, health visitors or probation officers can give food vouchers to people they feel are in urgent need. The vouchers are then swapped with the charity for a box.
The great majority of the recipients have a place of their own, and many are homeowners, but have suddenly run out of money.
"In rural Wiltshire it can be an agricultural that has had an accident, but being a temporary worker, can not access full Jobseekers' Allowance. In inner city Portsmouth it could be a factory worker who has been made redundant, but their money has yet to come through.
"We are finding that many of the JobCentres are not coping with the extra people claiming benefits," said Mr Mould.
Andrew Selous, the shadow work and pensions minister, said: "The fact there are people going hungry in this country – the fifth richest in the world – is shocking. You may think that the benefits system means that everyone gets fed. But that just isn't the case."
During December last year, 35,000 people who applied for Jobseekers' Allowance had to wait for 17 days or more before the benefit was paid to them, with 10,000 people having to wait more than three weeks.
The Department for Work and Pensions insists that Jobcentres are coping with the sudden increase in the number of people claiming the statutory weekly pay of £64.30.
However, over the last 12 months the number of people claiming the unemployment benefit jumped from 832,000 to 1.55 million.