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Hunger amid Oxford wealth

11 July 2014

by a staff reporter


DESPITE its being one of the most prosperous parts of the UK, the Thames Valley has seen a huge rise in the number of emergency foodbanks, a new report from the diocese of Oxford suggests.

The report, 999 Food: Emergency food aid in the Thames Valley - a snapshot, says that 62 per cent of foodbanks in the region had been set up in the past two years.

It also says that, in some of the richest towns and villages in Britain, there is a "rapidly expanding gap between the haves and the have nots".

Wokingham, in Berkshire, rated as the best town in the UK to live just a few years ago, and whose residents are, on average, in the top five per cent of earners, collected £17,000 of food from donors in four months, feeding 500 families.

Yet the directors of the foodbank found a woman in the advanced stages of pregnancy living with her partner in a child's toy tent in winter, with nothing to eat, in a lane just 200 yards from a church.

The author of the report, Alison Webster, the social-responsibility adviser for the diocese, said that the Government's welfare reforms were clearly behind much of the rise in numbers of people experiencing food poverty.

"Evidence emerging from various pieces of research suggests that falling benefit levels, low wages, reforms to housing policy, the bedroom tax, benefit sanctions and suspensions, and debt problems are having a catastrophic effect on children and families in the UK."

She was speaking last month, after a survey by Oxfam, the Trussell Trust, and Church Action on Poverty revealed that the number of people seeking emergency food aid had risen by 54 per cent in 2013.

Ms Webster said: "Trussell Trust figures give only a partial picture. For instance, in the diocese of Oxford, only about a quarter of emergency food activity is linked to the trust.

"Churches are at the forefront of feeding hungry people, but also of campaigns to combat the unjust policies that are pushing people into destitution and extreme vulnerability."


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