Recent studies by major charities such as Oxfam and Church Action Poverty show that more than half a million people in the UK may be relying on food banks for survival. The reasons for this can be complex but the reports point to cuts in living benefits and the increased cost of living.
The Trussel Trust is the UK’s largest provider of food banks and they have seen the number of people requiring food aid increase threefold in 2012. The increase in numbers of people being forced to use food banks is attributed by the reports mostly due to the effects of changes in welfare benefits. This would seem to be a combination of factors such as the recent withdrawal of some benefits, the reduction in other benefits and instances where the payment of benefits has been delayed.
Leading charity figures are showing increasing concern that welfare benefits provided by the state, which should be a safety net, are being constantly eroded and forcing people into food poverty.
Backbench MPs are also showing concern with some now commenting that food banks are not the answer to food poverty in the UK. They see the main problem as being soaring food inflation which they say has increased by 29% over the last five years in an economy where general inflation has been relatively static.
They have turned their attention to the supermarkets, laying the blame at their door for, as they put it, a food system that is not fit for purpose for the needs of the public. The supermarkets’ promises of cheap but healthy foods have not materialised and are now part of the problem rather than the solution.
Government intervention is being called for, to regulate food policy in the UK rather than leave it to market conditions, which is thought to be a major factor in the growing problem of food poverty in the UK.