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Still too poor to buy food

29 July 2016

WEST CHESHIRE FOODBANK

Talking it through: a volunteer at West Cheshire foodbank

Talking it through: a volunteer at West Cheshire foodbank

FOODBANKS are “here to stay”, an Oxford researcher warned last week, as a two-year study that has explored the factors driving people to seek emergency food supplies was published.

The report Still Hungry contains statistical analysis of data from West Cheshire foodbank, gathered from 5808 referrals between May 2014 and April 2016. Problems people were having with benefits — delays, changes, sanctions — accounted for two-thirds of the referrals. Low income accounted for nearly a fifth, and became increasingly prevalent as a reason for referral. Debt accounted for 16 per cent.

A third of those helped by the foodbank were children. More than half of those referred were in one-person households, which account for 30 per cent of households in the area.

Nearly half reflected “income crises” lasting between one and two weeks. The number of referrals made because of benefits-sanctions in West Cheshire has halved in the time period.

The report was published by West Cheshire Foodbank (part of the Trussell Trust), Oxford University, and the University of Chester. The researchers advise caution when considering the underlying reasons for the use of foodbanks because “reasons for referral are often complex and overlapping, so cannot always be categorised into a single cause.” Case studies include the story of Alice, whose husband had a stroke after being assessed as fit for work, and was left without money for more than a month.

Dr Elisabeth Garratt, the report’s author, who is based at Oxford University, said that there was “every indication that foodbanks are here to stay”, and spoke of “shocking levels of poverty that are unacceptable in a country as wealthy as ours. Despite enormous commitment on the part of volunteers, the provision of emergency food cannot address the underlying and long-term causes of food poverty. We call upon the Government to take effective steps to ensure that foodbanks do not become an established part of our society.”

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