Many are now turning to food banks to support themselves and their families.
Church-based charity the Trussell Trust had set up over 350 food banks nationwide and works on a voucher system enabling you to three days' free food. In order to obtain a parcel applicants must be referred by a recognised agency such as the Citizens Advice Bureau or their GP who will then hand out the voucher. The trust's rules state that nobody can have more than three vouchers in a row as they want to provide breathing space for those in need, not become a solution for the problem.
Daphine Aikens, who runs one of the London food banks, says that she has seen an increasing number of people arriving with those vouchers. In the second quarter of this year she says they saw a 250% increase compared to the same period last year. A report written Oxfam and Church Action on Poverty, released in May, found that 500,000 people in Britain had resorted to food banks to feed themselves this year which is three times more than in the previous twelve months. Campaigners are certain that this is due to the complex calculus of modern living and expenditure no longer adding up.
Food prices rose by 43% between 2000 and 2011while incomes stagnated or fell. Therefore it is easy to see why many are struggling. Especially when you factor in changes to benefits rules also.
“The government shies away from the truth of just how much trouble a bureaucratic welfare system can cause,” says Chris Mould, chief executive of the Trussell Trust. He says his charity is meant to provide a safety net, “but it's hard to hold that line as an organisation working in support of the state, rather than becoming a substitute for it”. He is unapologetic about the trust's Christian motives. “We are motivated by the challenge Jesus gave to his followers,” he says. “We do this because we should, and not in a trade-off with the state.”
As the people that go to Christ Church with a voucher just need food, the bank (based in London) organised a collection outside of a major supermarket and collected three tonnes of stuff. This works by customers buying then donating the food and the supermarket then giving the charity a shopping voucher of their own which is equivalent to a third of the food's value, meaning they are not profiting from the donation. This means that the shelves in the back room of the church are now full of food and basic necessities ready to help others.
Many are afraid to approach food banks with negative pre-conceived conceptions; however what they're met with is a volunteer and a cup of tea. The volunteer then talks to the person in need and finds out exactly what they need.
If you want more information about the Trussel Trust, click here.
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