The sad reality of the growing number of poor in the UK is that food banks have been under increasing pressure to provide food for people who can no longer afford enough to eat. What used to be a last resort is now being used by more and more people, arguably because of changes made to the welfare system—in particular, the recent changes to Employment Support Allowance (ESA). For many who live on welfare support this cut represented the loss of a third of their income. Critics often like to claim that it is the malingerers and the scroungers who suffer when cuts to welfare take effect, but in fact these changes affect all sorts of people from different walks of life—many of whom would work if they were able to.
Over 40% of all food banks in the UK are run by the Christian charity the Trussell Trust. They have reported on the growth of food banks in the UK, particularly since the recession of 2008 and the wide-ranging austerity measures implemented in government shortly afterwards. Some claim that the rise in the number of food banks is down to increased awareness and referrals, not a rising number of claimants. In the UK you often have to be 'referred' to food banks by social workers or some other authority, people cannot simply turn up and expect to be fed. That hasn't stopped some food banks facing perilous financial pressures, with many in the community claiming that cuts to local authority funding means cuts to food banks, precisely when people are having their personal welfare payments cut.
Several food banks are saying that they will only be able to keep issuing emergency food parcels to applicants for another three months. The problem is that many in government like food banks precisely because they are not connected with the government—they are independent and a sign of a community spirit that helps define our nation. However, in this instance a case should be made for specific funding to be granted to food banks on a national level—a way of ensuring that even if cuts to welfare are made, people will not go hungry in this, one of the most developed nations in the history of the planet. Considering much of the food is supermarket excess, food they have been unable to sell and would otherwise throw away, it's not like it would be any more expensive than the system currently in place.
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