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
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
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."