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...
In the last month my team and I have referred about the same number of people to the foodbank for assistance as we did in the ten months before that... The sheer scale of the operation these days is both astonishing and impressive. The fact that it has to be so big, though, underlines that something is fundamentally wrong with the way Britain operates at the moment.
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.
As we digest the results of the budget today, the words seem as good a test to judge it by as any. To be true to the One Nation ideal the budget must answer a simple question those of us in the foodbanks movement ponder every day. What can be done to reduce the number of people in poverty and hunger?
On Easter Monday, the Sun ran a full page non-story attacking the Trussell Trust for tenuous and supposed hypocrisy. Was there any mention of the fact that thousands of parents are going hungry to feed their children in the UK this Easter holiday? No. For me, this is the real story - or at least it should be. So why are certain sections of the media so determined to undermine anyone who speaks out about the reality of hunger and poverty in the UK? Last Easter, the Mail on Sunday ran an undercover investigation at foodbanks, trying to attack them, and those who need them. It notoriously backfired. This year it was the Sun.
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.