20 million meals: the local reaction


Millions of families across the UK are living below the breadline, with demand for foodbanks soaring.

In April, we revealed that ReadiFood, Reading’s foodbank, is giving away just under 100 emergency food parcels every week – a 64% increase on the previous six months.

In a new report issued by Oxfam, Church Action on Poverty and The Trussell Trust (a Christian charity that runs a network of more than 400 foodbanks), research reveals that a perfect storm of food poverty has been created by changes to the social security system, introducing sanctions and the bedroom tax.

Food prices have soared – increasing by 43.5% in eight years, while low and stagnant wages have been a result of the recession. More workers are on zero hours contracts too.

The Below The Breadline report reveals that for many low-income homes, the money they are bringing home is less every month than their essential outgoings: this means that they are instantly in poverty.

Xn has approached all our local MPs and known parliamentary candidates for their views. At the time of writing, we have only received comments from the Labour candidates for Reading East and West.

Victoria Groulef, Labour’s Reading West parliamentary candidate:

“Families are on average over £2,000 a year worse off in Reading since David Cameron became Prime Minister. Many of the people I’ve been talking to are really struggling and say they have to shop around and watch every penny. There’s a real cost-of-living crisis and more and more families are relying on foodbanks.

“Support groups tell me they’re overwhelmed by the number of people who are trying to make ends meet and asking for help. We need the right policies to put more money back in people’s pockets but until that happens I’ll carry on rolling up my sleeves and working hard for the community to highlight the problems many are facing.”

Matt Rodda, prospective Labour parliamentary candidate for Reading East

“I am very concerned that local families have to resort to using food banks, concerted action is needed to help people overcome the cost of living crisis and to tackle the root causes of poverty.

“The Trussell Trust and other charities are doing some outstanding work to help but the Government needs to take action, it needs to stop the bedroom tax and it should freeze energy bills to take the pressure off residents struggling to make ends meet.”

Rachel Eden, Reading Borough Council’s Lead Councillor for Adult Social Care

“Reading can be proud of the way we’ve worked together to mitigate the worst excesses of Government policy. The massive increase in use of Readifood isn’t good news but it does mean that local people and the Council are showing we won’t walk by and see our neighbours go hungry.

“However what we’re seeing is a result of a combination of deliberate policy – like the way the bedroom tax hits people with disabilities – and inaction by the national Government on things like rising rents and energy bills: it’s no wonder some families are struggling to afford food.

“There’s more we can do locally – the council has just launched a benefits take up campaign and we can all look for ways we can help each other but the real solution to this is a national Government that is willing to tackle the root causes.”

As and when we receive more comments, we will add them to this story.

Last modified on Monday, 09 June 2014 16:10