A man who ended up in court after he and his wife took worthless discarded food from a supermarket yard has revealed his desperate plight.
Paul Barker was seen sifting through out-of-date groceries at the back of Tesco in Hetton-le-Hole, County Durham, when the couple were caught on CCTV at midnight on January 5, Sunderland magistrates heard.
But after a judge said he could impose no financial penalty on the 39-year-old for his actions, Barker described his existence as “not really living at all.”
Prosecutor Jeanette Smith said Barker and wife Kerry, 29, were seen in the rear compound of the Hetton Road Tesco Express store, removing a pallet of food.
However, Mrs Smith added that, although the items were to be thrown out, they were in a secure compound, adding that Tesco’s policy is not to give away discarded food.
Barker, of Caroline Street, Hetton admitted theft. He already has £300 in outstanding fines owing to the court.
Angus Westgarth, defending, said:
“At the time, they hadn’t had benefits or any money since December. It just seems that the state has failed them.
“They were told they would not get any benefits for a year from December. He is having to duck and dive to feed himself. Without a crystal ball I can see that this will continue to happen.
“He is trying to survive however he can. I think they call this way of living ‘freeganism’. They take waste food and consume it.
“They are managing to live as, I think, Social Services are paying some money for housing. Their children are living with grandparents because of the situation.”
District Judge Roger Elsey said:
“How are they expected to live?
“It seems to me the appropriate punishment for taking food which is of no value is an absolute discharge. I clearly can’t make any financial order.”
> Well done that judge !
Barker’s wife Kerry is due before magistrates this week, charged with the same offence.
Speaking at home after the case, Barker said:
“I do it because I need food, I’m not nicking for profit like most.
“You have to be careful with fish, but most out-of-date food you can eat, but things like bread might be slightly harder.
“They should give it to people who need it. But they don’t care, it’s just money making.
“It’s wrong, it’s horrible, it’s like not really living at all. It’s like being in jail. I’m banned from all the shops.”
Barker said he broke his back in a fall while working as a scaffolder and is out of work. He also used to work with young offenders after he got out of rehab, where he was treated for his addiction to crack and heroin, which he used for a third of his life.
He added that his wife has a degree in sociology, but was forced to give up her job at Durham County Council five years ago due to depression. The couple’s children, a four-year-old boy and two-year-old daughter are living with grandparents in Cumbria.
Tesco said that they do donate surplus food to people in need, through charity Fareshare and also redistribute food donated by their customers, to the Trussell Trust.
“Working with the charity FareShare, we have already distributed over three million meals worth of surplus food to people in need and we are working on ways to make sure more surplus food is donated in this way,” a spokesman said.
“It is not safe to take food from bins and that is why we work with charities to redistribute surplus food that is safe to eat to people who need it.”
Source – Sunderland Echo, 12 May 2015
Hartlepool Foodbank is giving a vital food handout to desperate families an average of every three minutes it is open.
The number of starving people being forced to turn to the foodbank to be able to eat has increased by almost a quarter within a year.
Between January and June this year, 2,310 people walked into Hartlepool Foodbank, in Church Street, and received a three-day food parcel.
The foodbank is open two days a week for a total of four hours and the figure equates to a handout every three minutes.
That is equal to 385 people using the service every month in the period, or 89 people every week.
In the same six-month period last year there were 24 per cent less people needing its help with around 1,750 residents needing a package of food.
The shocking figures prompted Hartlepool Foodbank to launch a Neighbourhood Food Collection at Tesco, in Belle Vue Way, Hartlepool, as part of a national initiative with other stores up and down the country.
And generous customers donated an incredible 7,914 meals for people in need this winter.
The collection was held to make sure that the charities have enough food to help people during the winter, which is the hardest time of year for people in poverty.
Foodbank staff say that Christmas is looking especially tough for people on low incomes, with many already really struggling to make ends meet, and many parents being forced to choose between eating and heating.
Al Wales foodbank manager, said:
“Winter is the hardest time of year for people living in poverty, and this Christmas is looking especially tough as many people on low incomes are already really struggling.
“Numbers of people turning to Hartlepool Foodbank in the first six months of this year January to June increased by 24 per cent compared to the same period last year, and 2,310 people in Hartlepool have been given three days’ emergency food in the first 6 months of this year.”
A Hartlepool Borough Council spokesman said:
“The Government’s welfare reform changes are having a major impact on many local families and we are fully aware of the hardship this is causing.
“The foodbank is playing a vital role in supporting large numbers of people across Hartlepool and since it was opened in 2012 the council has made a number of financial donations to support its work.
“As well as donating food at the Hartlepool Foodbank site on Church Street, residents can also bring items to the Civic Centre reception, during normal office hours, and we will make sure the items are taken to the foodbank on their behalf.”
Foodbank’s Al added:
“Once again the generosity of local people is overwhelming – from children giving their pocket money, to bags and even whole trolley loads for food, being donated.
“Every item counts and helps to make a difference.
“The timing of the collection couldn’t have been better, not only are we stocked for the cold weeks ahead but we are also busy preparing emergency food boxes for our partner agencies to hold over the Christmas period when Foodbank is closed, from December 24 to January 6.
“During the collection, customers were asked to donate non-perishable food items such as long-life milk, cereals, tinned vegetables, tinned meat and Christmas treats.
“Thirty-two volunteers from the Trussell Trust Hartlepool Foodbank joined with Tesco staff in store to collect donations from kind-hearted customers.
“Tesco then topped up all donations by 30 per cent.”
The Tesco collection was part of the fifth UK-wide scheme, in partnership with foodbank charity The Trussell Trust and food redistribution charity FareShare, with an aim of reaching a target of 20 million meals for people in need by the end of this year.
• The foodbank, at 28 Church Street, is open Tuesdays and Fridays from 11.30am until 1.30pm.
For more information contact the foodbank on firstname.lastname@example.org, or telephone (01429) 598404.
Source – Hartlepool Mail, 08 Dec 2014
“Hidden food” could be used to tackle hunger in the region, according to a food redistribution charity.
In the past year, FareShare provided charities and organisations in the North-East with more than 790,000 meals using food sourced from supermarkets and suppliers.
Its North-East centre has saved the local charity sector around £1.3m and helped to feed almost 5,000 people a day using surplus supermarket food.
However, the charity currently accesses just 1.5 per cent of surplus food from the UK’s food and drink industries, meaning the majority of so-called “hidden food” goes to waste.
Up to 400,000 tonnes of surplus food is edible, in date and could be used to provide up to 800m meals across the UK – the equivalent of 13 meals per person.
FareShare believe this food could be used to tackle poverty and hunger.
The charity’s CEO, Lindsay Boswell, said: “FareShare and its partners have been working with leading supermarkets and suppliers for over 10 years to rescue good food from going to waste and redirect it to people in need across the UK including North East England.
“Over the past decade – UK wide – we’ve redistributed enough surplus to provide over 67m meals.
She added: “We have a huge challenge in the future in getting further into the supply chain to meet ever growing demand for our services but we have a solid and sustainable solution to food poverty which can help tackle an ever growing issue.”
For more information, visit fareshare.org.uk.
Source – Northern Echo, 13 Aug 2014
Oxfam Press Release: Big rise in UK food poverty sees 20m meals given out in last year
Food banks and food aid charities gave more than 20 million meals last year to people in the UK who could not afford to feed themselves – a 54 per cent increase on the previous 12 months, according to a report published today by Oxfam, Church Action on Poverty and The Trussell Trust.
Below the Breadline warns that there has been a rise in people turning to food banks in affluent areas. Cheltenham, Welwyn Garden City and North Lakes have seen numbers of users double and in some cases treble. The massive rise in meals handed out by food banks and food aid charities is a damning indictment of an increasingly unequal Britain where five families have the same wealth as the poorest 20 per cent of the population.
The report details how a perfect storm of changes to the social security system, benefit sanctions, low and stagnant wages, insecure and zero-hours contracts and rising food and energy prices are all contributing to the increasing numbers of meals handed out by food banks and other charities. Food prices have increased by 43.5 per cent in the past 8 years. During the same time the poorest 20 per cent have seen their disposable income fall by £936 a year.
Mark Goldring, Oxfam Chief Executive, said: “Food banks provide invaluable support for families on the breadline but the fact they are needed in 21st Century Britain is a stain on our national conscience. Why is the Government not looking into this?
“We truly are living through a tale of two Britains; while those at the top of the tree may be benefiting from the green shoots of economic recovery, life on the ground for the poorest is getting tougher.
“At a time when politicians tell us that the economy is recovering, poor people are struggling to cope with a perfect storm of stagnating wages, insecure work and rising food and fuel prices. The Government needs to do more to ensure that the poorest and most vulnerable aren’t left behind by the economic recovery.”
Niall Cooper, Director of Church Action on Poverty said: “Protecting its people from going hungry is one of the most fundamental duties of Government. Most of us assume that when we fall on hard times, the social security safety net will kick in, and prevent us falling into destitution and hunger. We want all political parties to commit to re-instating the safety net principle as a core purpose of the social security system, and draw up proposals to ensure that no one in the UK should go hungry.”
Chris Mould, Chairman of The Trussell Trust said: “Trussell Trust food banks alone gave three days’ food to over 300,000 children last year. Below the Breadline reminds us that Trussell Trust figures are just the tip of the iceberg of UK food poverty, which is a national disgrace.
“The troubling reality is that there are also thousands more people struggling with food poverty who have no access to food aid, or are too ashamed to seek help, as well as a large number of people who are only just coping by eating less and buying cheap food.
“Trussell Trust food banks are seeing parents skipping meals to feed their children and significant repercussions of food poverty on physical and mental health. Unless there is determined policy action to ensure that the benefits of national economic recovery reach people on low-incomes we won’t see life get better for the poorest anytime soon.”
The report will feature on tonight’s Dispatches, to be broadcast at 7.30pm on Channel 4. The documentary, Breadline Kids, will follow three families in their daily lives as they struggle to feed themselves.
In total, Oxfam and Church Action on Poverty estimate that the three main food aid providers – Trussell Trust, Fareshare and Food Cycle – gave out over 20m meals in 2013-4, up from around 13m, a year earlier. The Trussell Trust, the only robust source of statistics showing how many people actually visit food banks, reported in April that 913,138 people were given three days’ emergency food between April 2013 and March 2014 – the equivalent of over 8 million meals.
Benefit sanctions is one of the major factors contributing to the increase in food bank usage. Since the new sanctions policy was implemented in October 2012, over 1 million sanctions have been applied.
A recent report by the Work and Pensions Select Committee recommended that “DWP take urgent steps to monitor the extent of financial hardship caused by benefit sanctions (http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmselect/cmworpen/479/479.pdf; p.29)
Oxfam, Church Action on Poverty and The Trussell Trust are calling on the Government to urgently draw up an action plan to reverse the rising tide of food poverty and to collect evidence to understand the scale and cause of the increases in food bank usage. The organisations are also calling on all political parties to re-instate the safety net principle as a core purpose of the social security system.
Source – Welfare News Service, 09 June 2014