What’s the key that will unlock food poverty? We asked eight people with personal insights
We visited the Parson Cross Initiative at Mount Tabor Church in Sheffield one Friday morning, and spoke to eight people who have had cause to use the centre’s food bank. Here are their stories and suggestions.
- Hollie: I was swept into poverty when I was left for five weeks without money
- Tina: Ending the benefit freeze and helping in the holidays would unlock my poverty
- Mary: Lenders lock you into debt – but there is another way
- Anita: What it’s like in the whirlpool of benefit changes
- John: I’d have been in hospital if it weren’t for these people
- Lisa: This place is unlocking my poverty – I’ve had the gas on for the first time in two years
- Keith: After 10 years and 500 job rejections, the JSA freeze has pulled me into poverty
- Richard: I could have avoided the shackles of poverty, but they sanctioned me
Note: Mary and John above are pseudonyms; the other interviewees spoke under their real names
The bigger picture
First-hand accounts like these are hugely important. They help us all understand the causes of food poverty, appreciate more fully the human impact it has, and identify potential solutions.
These stories represent just a fraction of the people who visited one food bank, in one part of one city, in one morning, but they raise issues that ring true for many people across the country.
Take the benefit problems cited by Hollie, Anita and Lisa. Research shows that, more often than anything else, it is benefit problems or delays that cause people to need a food bank.
It’s not only administrative errors that lead to problems though. The freeze on benefits means that people on already low incomes have become worse off in real terms. Keith, who has applied for around 500 jobs, says it is the freeze on his Jobseeker’s Allowance that has put him in poverty. In October, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation projected that an extra 470,000 people would be in poverty by 2020 if the freeze continues, but demonstrated that if benefits such as Jobseeker’s Allowance kept pace with inflation, then 380,000 people could escape the rising tide.
Three of the interviewees, all mums of young children, talked about how much harder it was to cover costs during the school holidays, with extra meals to provide. A recent YouGov poll found one in four parents, like Tina and Mary, have missed meals, with one in eight having gone a whole day without food. In January, Frank Field MP presented a bill in Parliament proposing the Government allocate all councils the funds to provide food and activities during the holidays, to help children who might otherwise go hungry. There have been campaigns for this for 109 years and the Government is now to undertake research and pilot projects.
That’s just one of the strands of the End Hunger UK campaign, which brings together people, communities and organisations from around the country. We have outlined nine proposals that would reduce and ultimately end hunger in the UK. We all want a compassionate and just society, and we can get there if we work together, share stories and share ideas. Please take a look at the campaign proposals here, see how you can get involved, and help create a society where everyone has access to good food, and where nobody need go to bed hungry.
Thank you to Nick and his team at the Parson Cross Initiative for inviting us along, and to Hollie, Tina, Mary, Anita, John, Lisa, Keith and Richard for sharing their stories.