Food banks are gearing up to address growing demand during the Easter school holidays. Hard-pressed parents have to step in with lunches normally provided free at a school and may rely on charitable food banks for the kids meals.
As well as three-day food parcels, charity the Trussell Trust will provide Easter eggs as part of the food parcels to make “Easter a little brighter for families and children who are struggling to put food on the table.”
Last year a cross-party group of MPs recommended that free school meals should be provided to vulnerable kids during school holidays. Their report – Feeding Britain – recommended working to make the UK “hunger free” and called for a rise in the minimum wage and scaling back benefit sanctions that left claimants without money for food.
The latest report from the Department for Work and Pensions Select Committee published on March 22 demanded the government provides evidence the sanctions regime was not just “purely punitive”.
Sanctions and food poverty
Dame Anne Begg MP, who chairs the select committee said: “Recent research suggests that benefit sanctions are contributing to food poverty. No claimant should have their benefit payment reduced to zero where they are at risk of severe financial hardship, to the extent of not being able to feed themselves or their families, or pay their rent.”
The Committee said a hardship payment system designed to prevent people being left without money was not effective. This is because “hardship payments are not available until the 15th day of a sanction period. It is not reasonable to expect people to live without any source of income for two weeks.”
Prime minister David Cameron was challenged on the rise of food banks in the first TV debate. Interviewer Jeremy Paxman pressed Cameron in the increase in food banks from 66 in 2010 when he took office to 460 at the end of those five years.
While Cameron has been vocally supportive of food banks, some parts of government and his cabinet colleague Ian Duncan Smith have been scathing. Duncan Smith has accused food bank providers Trussell Trust of “scaremongering” while the DWP has accused them of “misleading and emotionally manipulative publicity-seeking” and accused the charity of “aggressively marketing their services”.
The charity has confirmed that Iain Duncan Smith has still not met its chairman Chris Mould. This is despite a request dating back to 2013.
But Trussell Trust, a Christian charity has refused to curtail its charitable activities despite the ire of Duncan Smith and the DWP. Having provided more than 1,000,000 food parcels in the last year, they have comfortably fed more than the 5,000.
Trussell Trust UK foodbank director Adrian Curtis says: “School holidays are especially difficult for low income families whose children usually receive free school meals or support from breakfast clubs. Many of the UK’s poorest parents are concerned about being able to feed their children over school holidays, and many skip meals to feed their children.
“Benefit delays and changes – including sanctions – are the trigger for 45 percent of referrals to Trussell Trust foodbanks nationwide. Over Easter many foodbanks will give out Easter eggs alongside the standard three day emergency food parcels to help make Easter a little brighter for families and children who are struggling to put food on the table.”
If you would like details of how you can assist Trussell trust, please visit its website here.