British Red Cross turns its attention to UK’s poor

Food banks and donation drives forced to help growing number of Britons in need

The numbers of food-banks run by the Trussell Trust throughout Britain has grown by three-quarters over the past 18 months.

The numbers of food-banks run by the Trussell Trust throughout Britain has grown by three-quarters over the past 18 months.

Sat, Oct 12, 2013, 01:00

During the second World War, the British Red Cross collected food-parcels for prisoners-of-war languishing in German camps, a lifeline that included a quarter-pound of tea and tins of sardines, margarine and dried eggs.

Next month, thousands of the Red Cross’s 30,000- strong group of volunteers will stand in the aisles of Tesco stores, encouraging shoppers to donate items to a food appeal that will be shared with Britain’s poor.

The numbers of food-banks run by the Trussell Trust throughout Britain has grown by three-quarters over the past 18 months.

However, the numbers of people receiving three-day emergency packs of foods has nearly tripled. In all, 350,000 people have received help.

Squeezed incomes
“[The last year has been] much tougher for people than many anticipated. Incomes are being squeezed to breaking point. We’re seeing people from all kinds of backgrounds turning to food banks,” said the trust’s Chris Mould.

“Working people coming in on their lunch breaks, mums who are going hungry to feed their children, people whose benefits have been delayed and people who are struggling to find enough work. It’s shocking that people are going hungry in 21st-century Britain,” he said.

The food collected during the three days in November will be given to FoodShare, a charity which collects out-of-date but still edible food, or vegetables that never make it on to supermarket shelves because they are deemed too ugly.

Earlier this month, one industry report warned that nearly seven million tonnes of food goes to waste annually in Britain, while up to 40 per cent of some vegetable harvests are ploughed back into the ground because they do not meet supermarkets’ size and shape rules.

Questioned yesterday, the Red Cross said that it had had no reaction from the British government to its decision to collect food, though the Conservative/Liberal Democrats coalition has been embarrassed by the growth in the number of food-banks.

“It isn’t our intention to step on anyone’s toes, or to duplicate work that is being done by others,” said a spokeswoman, “but we have greater numbers of people that we can put on the ground that most other organisations.”

Contrary to stereotype, just four in every 100 people who come to the Trussell Trust’s food banks each week are homeless. Instead, a third are forced to come because of delays in getting their welfare benefits.

One in five, however, are working, but they can no longer pay their bills: “Years of static wages, or cuts in wages, coupled with increases in the cost of living mean that they cannot cope,” says Molly Hodson.

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