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Study root causes for foodbanks, not their growth, academics urge

28 February 2014


"Positive response to a negative reality": the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, opens a foodbank at St Mary's, Barry, South Wales, on Thursday. He said that  while he was pleased to see people helping their neighbours and was proud of the church taking a lead role in that, the need for foodbanks was a sad reflection on society as a whole 

"Positive response to a negative reality": the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, opens a foodbank at St Ma...

A NEW report for the Government has concluded that people are being driven to use foodbanks by job losses and problems getting benefits.

Household Food Security in the UK, published on Thursday of last week, states that the "current economic and policy context" is causing rising numbers of families to have to deal with drastic changes in their circumstances which affect their ability to buy food.

Publication of the report, which was written by a group of academics from the University of Warwick, has been delayed for several months, and there has been speculation that it would criticise the Government's austerity programme.

The researchers write that the organisations that run foodbanks say that a combination of unemployment, benefit sanctions, low wages, and increasing debt are the factors that are pushing people into receiving food aid. They also say that turning to foodbanks is largely a last resort.

Research by the Citizens Advice service, quoted in the report, found that the two most common reasons for using a foodbank were delays in the payment of benefits, and benefit sanctions.

The report suggests, however, that the growing number of people using foodbanks is not good evidence of problems with the Welfare State. The authors recommend that the Government focus on "the root causes of [food] insecurity rather than on numbers claiming food aid". They also argue that even long-term use of foodbanks does not address the underlying problems that prevent households' having enough food.

On Tuesday, it was announced that the Bishop of Truro, the Rt Revd Tim Thornton, is to chair a parliamentary inquiry into food poverty. It will be co-chaired by the Labour MP Frank Field, and will report to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hunger and Food Poverty.

Its remit is to investigate the rise of foodbanks and how adequately they are meeting people's need for food aid.

A RECTOR who was angered by a segment on the BBC car programme Top Gear, in which the presenters drove into food in a supermarket, has complained to the BBC. Prebendary Robert King, the Rector of Weobley, in the diocese of Hereford, said that he was upset that food had been destroyed at a time when so many were struggling to afford enough to eat. A spokesman for the BBC said: "We're aware that some viewers will think any wastage of food is unacceptable, but we are making a TV show, and that sort of moral question is not the main point of our remit."

Question of the week:  Do you believe that there is a link between foodbanks and changes in benefits?


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