The growth in the use of food banks has been a sad trend over the past decade and – frankly – an indictment of ten years of failed Conservative policy, which has seen services cut and support slashed for those most in need.
However, as awful of this trend has been, it has been inspiring for me to see the fantastic things that our local food banks do for their communities and the amazing dedication of their volunteers. These food banks – including St Mary’s Haughton Green in Denton and Tameside East in Dukinfield within my constituency – have provided an absolutely vital service to so many people within the community, ensuring that both adults and children are fed.
This has been even more important during the Coronavirus crisis, which has seen many lose their jobs or businesses, forcing some people unexpectedly into poverty for the very first times in their lives. Research by one national food bank charity, the Trussell Trust, has predicted a staggering 61% increase in demand for their food banks over this winter period. At the same time, lockdown restrictions have made it more difficult for food banks (and all charities in fact) to make collections or raise funds.
You may know that I’ve been running Citizen’s Awards to recognise those who have gone above and beyond for others within the Denton and Reddish constituency and I’m very pleased to say that a number of award winners have raised money or collected for our food banks. Additionally, the fantastic campaigning of Marcus Rashford on children’s holiday hunger has really shone a much-needed light on the issue of food poverty. These are encouraging signs that this issue is being taken seriously and we can make real progress on combatting food poverty, but there is still much to be done.
We are also entering the Christmas period. We don’t yet know what restrictions may or may not be eased this year, but what we do know is that what is a jolly and happy time for many people is also the most difficult time of year for others. Whilst many of us tuck into turkey, Brussels sprouts and pigs in blankets, there are others who are just hoping to have enough to eat.
So this Christmas – more than ever – we need to show support for our local food banks, and I’d encourage you all to find out how you might be able to help, whether that’s volunteering or donating.