Hunger is on the rise in Britain and has seen a sharp increase in the number of people unable to afford to feed themselves at the most basic level, thanks to the worsening economic climate and changes to the benefit system, according to a survey by a leading food charity. This is the general and widespread agreement among some of the UK’s leading food charities, even as government austerity measures cut at the leftovers of social services for the poor and the working classes in need.
The food charity Fareshare which come into being as an environmental charity against food waste but now priorities the plight of the hungry which it nowadays makes its main concern has seen a 20 percent rise in demand for its services in the past year. Fareshare redistributes food from manufacturers and supermarkets to charities. Food that is either out of date, surplus to requirements, or has package printing errors and usually ends up in landfill sites. Fareshare redirects a small percentage of this food waste, 1 percent out of a total three million tonnes of waste, to alleviate the desperate plight of an increasing number of people
The total number of people Fareshare feeds has risen this last year from 29,000 to 35,500.The number of homelessness hostels and drop-in centres that Fareshare serves has also grown from 600 to 700 from last year, and 40 percent of theses charities report a 50 percent increase in demand, which they are struggling to meet.
The Trussel Trust food bank saw the numbers it helped this year soar to 61,500 people, up from 42,000 last year. This food charity opened its first food bank in 2004 and now runs 100 food banks throughout the UK that distribute emergency food parcels to the needy referred to them by Social Services. The Trussel Trust says they are helping increasing numbers of 16 to 30 year olds. In fact, one-third of people now receiving food parcels are young people, due to the high rates of youth unemployment. In areas like Exeter, Cardigan, and the Isle of Wight as much as 80 percent of those seeking food are young.
In Okehampton, where unemployment shot up six-fold, they are helping 200 people a week, up from 20 last year.
It is not only the 16 to 18 year olds or the single homeless who are experiencing increasing hardship. Both the Trussel Trust and Fareshare are reporting poor, working families turning up for help, who after paying the mortgage and utility bills cannot afford to put food on the table. There are also grandmothers whose extended families have a high proportion of unemployed members, or people who have just lost their businesses. People who in the past were not considered in danger of hunger are now increasingly turning to food charities for help.
More and more people over age 50 are also being pushed into poverty, according to Saga, a consumer body for this age group. These so-called “baby boomers” are now facing the prospect of rising unemployment due to public sector job cuts, and with it the danger of food poverty. This will affect women in particular who make up three quarters of the workforce in local government.
The austerity measures of the coalition government are further devastating vital services to the most vulnerable families in Britain.
According to the UK’s biggest children’s charity, Barnardo’s, local authority cutbacks are impacting on the services provided to the 120,000 so-called dysfunctional or troubled families, who also often happen to be the poorest. Barnardo’s supports 18,000 children and 80,000 families annually.