Low pay and rising bills have pushed hundreds of thousands of people into relying on food banks, and the Bedroom Tax, sanctions and delays at the Department of Work and Pensions have made things worse... Food banks have become a truly shameful symbol of a Tory Government that is failing to stand up for ordinary people.
Today the Trussell Trust reveals its foodbank network provided more than one million three-day food supplies to people in crisis in the last year - even more than the previous year, and the year before that, and the year before that... It's so important because behind these statistics are individual people like you and me, who never dreamt they would one day need to be referred to their local foodbank. Only when we openly and honestly engage with the reasons one million food parcels were needed last year, can we possibly move nearer to finding solutions.
Whilst the average child in the UK receives 8.8 Easter eggs, and one in five reportedly make themselves sick on chocolate over Easter, there are thousands of children in poverty across the UK who face having nothing at all. Thankfully, for the last few weeks, food banks across the UK have seen so many local heroes come forward to help children in poverty to have a happier Easter.
It's Christmas Eve, and this morning I delivered the last two of three hundred Christmas hampers. I don't work for Harrods, or M&S, or anyone else who might spring to mind when you think about hamper deliveries; I work for Salisbury Foodbank. And each one of these three hundred hampers will go to families and individuals who are struggling to put food on the table this Christmas...
We can all be truly thankful that demand for foodbank parcels has, over the last year or so, begun to settle, though only after climbing to a figure of around a million three day parcels a year. It's an extraordinary high level compared with only a few years ago, and one that I would never have imagined we would reach. What seems bizarre though is that some commentators are suggesting this plateau in demand means that the problem of food poverty has gone away. It hasn't. It's too many, and there's no guarantee that it won't rise again soon.
I like to be optimistic and would like to think that we won't have York Foodbank in another three years, simply because there will no longer be a need for it. For that to happen we must listen to the experiences of the people that we see. We must support people and help them out of crisis, but we must also identify what is driving people into Foodbanks, then advocate for change.
The questioning again that hunger and poverty is not a reality in the UK in 2015, or that it is a fabrication of left-wing politics, is both inaccurate and demonising - adding to the false narrative that anyone who doesn't have income for enough food, or rent, or gas and electricity, or school shoes for the kids, must have only themselves to blame.
The church is rightly finding its voice again, calling for example at this election time for a "fresh moral vision". A vision where people are paid a decent living wage for the work they do, where the vulnerable are cared for and respected. Where government institutions treat people as people not numbers on a balance sheet.
It seems to me, and others who gave evidence to the Work and Pensions Select Committee, that a system in which claimants are 'presumed guilty' unless they prove otherwise goes against 'natural, or administrative, justice'. This is a reflection of the destructive narrative that has built up around benefit claimants.
This is a community where unjust benefit suspension or delay right through to illness and family breakdown can have catastrophic results with bills unable to be paid or food provided. Most strikingly, there is little knowledge on where to access help, and those who have found help have often not been listened to.