Growing debt, low wages and benefit cuts: recipe for food banks

The number of food banks is growing
The number of food banks is growing

Some 270 households in the city are receiving food parcels from the 13 food banks.

Some 270 households in the city are receiving food parcels from the 13 food banks in and around our city. This compares with about two food banks in July 2012.

The growth in food banks has been well-documented and is, in part, due to many residents facing growing debt, low wages, insecure jobs, and cuts to benefits.

People on low incomes do not often have the buffer of a savings account to help pay for emergency expenses, such as a new washing machine or a new school uniform. As a result, it is often the food budget that has to give.

This kind of food poverty is caused by underlying financial issues that we have been trying to address through developing a community banking partnership called Moneyworks. There is a money advice line - 01273 809288 - for residents experiencing financial difficulties, where they can find out more about help available across council and third-sector services.

This partnership includes charity organisations such as the Citizens Advice Bureau and Money Advice Community Support Service as well as community hubs like the Hangleton and Knoll Project and Whitehawk Inn.

Importantly, the Food Partnership is also involved in ensuring that Moneyworks is able to help residents find out about short-term emergency support as well as long-term help with food issues, such as growing clubs and lunch clubs.

Already, many of the calls to the helpline have been about residents in urgent need of help with food so it is clear it is a major issue.

Food poverty, however, cannot be tackled in isolation; it is a symptom of residents having wider financial problems.

It is essential that addressing access to affordable and healthy food continues to be a key part of the advice and support available to our many residents struggling through financial difficulties.

We will continue doing what we can, despite growing need - and ongoing government cuts to welfare and council budgets.