Food-banks have become a significant issue in England within the last few years, with more and more families living below the breadline and parents not being able to feed their children.
For those who are unsure what a food-bank entails, put simply it is a non-profit, charitable organisation that distributes food to those who struggling to buy the necessary food to avoid hunger.
The economy is supposedly recovered but one look at the numbers of people who are being forced to turn to food-banks and you start to question what kind of recovery this government think they have created. The national population of the UK is about 64 million. The Trussell Trust, who are the largest national food bank provider, state that 913,138 food parcels were given out last year; a huge number and the Trussell Trust are no means the sole providers of Food-banks so it can be safely said that the number is much larger than this. This means that, conservatively in the UK, on one million occasions someone has had to admit that they cannot afford to feed themselves or their family.
This is not just a problem for the unemployed, as many food bank users are in at least part-time employment, but with low wages, higher prices and the problems inherent in zero-hours contracts many employed people are still struggling to pay their way. 20.29% of Trussell Trust food-bank users cite low income as the reason that they needed to use a food bank.
It seems that in Ipswich locally, food-banks are a big issue which should be near the top of any local political agenda. People can use food-banks as many times as they need to, but as this is true for all food-banks if we look at the numbers as a percentage we get an idea of the need for each area. The national need is 1.7%, the North East is the area of greatest need in the country 2.27% with the East Midlands recording the lowest need at 0.82% with the East itself just below the national average at 1.53%. These figures allow us to start creating some comparisons; the Trussell Trust do not provide food banks in Ipswich; the bulk of this work is done by the fantastic work of FIND, which I will talk more about later. FIND state that they provided 4,148 food parcels last year in Ipswich alone; this could be written as a percentage against the population of 3.01%. This is huge; it is significantly more than the region with the greatest need and is twice the need of the East itself! This suggests that the need for food-banks is a major problem for Ipswich.
As mentioned, FIND (Families in Need) are the food-bank provider in Ipswich and they are doing amazing work, proving food for those in dire need around the whole of Ipswich. They try to provide fresh goods like fruit and vegetables as much as possible, they never supply anything out of date and they will meet the dietary requirements of all who need their help.
We at the Green Party Ipswich visited FIND to speak directly to Maureen Reynel; a local resident who founded FIND. She said “Not only do we provide food, we try to provide goods such as toiletries and household type items, from teaspoons, beds, furniture and white goods. FIND also spent £5,850 on rough sleepers, purchasing B&B places, rent deposits, footwear, food and travel to safer abodes.”
Maureen Reynel cannot be praised highly enough for the work that she does for the local community; she sources the goods, organises the needs, keeps a warehouse of food goods in order, ensuring nothing is wasted by going out of date before it is sent out, and gets the food out to those who need it with the aid of a small but hard working group of volunteers.
And donations do not come easily, you look in stores such as the Morrisons on Sproughton Road and they have a collection point for food, but unfortunately this is only dog food. Tesco twice a year run a campaign to collect for local food banks but unfortunately this has always been co-ordinated by the company FareShare who have taken the collections out of Ipswich as they have not known about FIND.
There is a huge amount that needs to be done; ultimately a town that has no need for food banks is the ideal, and this will only come about by raising awareness in individuals in a way that shakes up the local government to take a stand, and for this to work up to a national level. The dream is there, but with the current political systems it remains distant. What we can do in the here and now we have already started, and everyone can support. The Green Party in Ipswich are campaigning to help FareShare work with FIND to keep local donations local. We are campaigning shops and local businesses to support FIND, by donating food, money and by setting up collection points. This is something anyone can help with; if you know a local business who may be able to donate or provide a collection point then please take action on this!
Other ways you can help are by donating; food donations are obviously a high priority, especially fresh food which is often in short supply yet vital for the all-important health diet. Financial support is also key; the warehouse rent needs to be paid, petrol needs to be bought (as all donations are taken to people’s doors) and many other costs need to be met. You might have some spare time; if so get involved and help volunteer; it would only mean an hour or two a week but this could help make a difference. There is a particularly urgent need for drivers currently. If you are interested in volunteering, visit FIND’s website: http://www.findipswich.org.uk/
There are a number of sites in Ipswich to donate to FIND. They can often be found in your local Co-Op; check this list to see if your local Co-Op collects http://www.eastofengland.coop/media/143688/Foodbank-List-for-website.jpg
You can also visit the Quaker’s ‘Friends Meeting Hall’ on Fonnereau Road, Ipswich which also provides a collection point.
Maureen Reynel and her team of volunteers at FIND are doing brilliant work but they are in great need to ensure that they can provide for those who are in even greater need, so anyway that you can help would be hugely appreciated. The Green Party Ipswich will continue to campaign on this vital issue, addressing it in every way that we can!