A pioneering cafe opening in Durham City is bringing a whole new meaning to “junk food”.
From Friday night (June 12), anti-food waste campaigners Nikki Dravers and Mim Skinner will serve up RE-f-USE, a pop-up cafe using only food which would otherwise be thrown away.
Opening night will be at Durham’s Indoor Market and several hundred people are expected between 6pm and 8.30pm.
“We started collecting food a couple of weeks ago and it’s escalated incredibly quickly,” said Miss Dravers.
“Judging from the interest online, we could get 2-300 people.”
The aim of the not-for-profit venture is to show how much viable food is thrown away.
“In a world where around 870 million people, one in nine, are hungry, it’s an outrage that one third of food produced worldwide is thrown away when it’s perfectly fit for human consumption,” Miss Dravers said.
Energy firm Npower is planning to open fuel banks offering vouchers for free gas and electricity to the poor.
They would operate alongside existing food banks which give three days’ worth of donated food to those in need.
The proliferation of food banks has been controversial and it has been at the centre of the Labour Party’s attack on the Coalition. The arrival of fuel banks is likely to intensify the political furore.
The step may also be interpreted as an attempt by one energy giant to stem criticism of its pricing from consumer groups and the threat of a price cap from Labour.
Npower, one of the Big Six energy companies which dominate the market, aims to open fuel banks in a series of pilot programmes across the country which are likely to be up and running over the summer.
The company is understood to be in the process of signing agreements with partners to operate the scheme.
Those people judged to be in need of help would be given a voucher to put towards energy costs. It is expected to pay for energy lasting the average household ‘about two weeks’, said a source close to the company. Npower declined to comment.
The source said: ‘They could do this three times a year and it would be available not just for our customers but anybody, no matter who their supplier is.
‘The idea is that we run this for six months over the summer so we can be sure we administer this properly before we hit winter when demand is likely to increase.’
The energy company believes that those most likely to claim from its fuel banks are already on pre-payment energy meters. Comparison website uSwitch has said there are 5.9 million people who are on this type of meter.
A report from the All Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Hunger in the UK published last December noted that the average price of gas, electricity and other fuels had increased by 153.6 per cent in Britain from 2004-2013 compared with 76 per cent in Germany and 59 per cent in France.
Vouchers which allow the less well off to obtain supplies from food banks can be obtained from social services, the service, doctors’ surgeries and schools. It is likely that fuel banks will be organised using similar arrangements.
The arrival of fuel banks is likely to ratchet up the pressure on the Coalition. In the TV debates David Cameron failed to answer questions from interviewer Jeremy Paxman on how many food banks there are and how rapidly they have grown.
According to Paxman, there were 66 when the Coalition came to power and there are now 421. However, there are no official figures and some estimate that the number of food banks is much higher.
Food banks fed almost a million people in 2014, according to figures from the Trussell Trust, the charity which operates many of them, though the figure has been disputed.
Many began offering ‘kettle boxes’ to those who cannot afford to switch on their cooker to boil foods like rice or pasta. The meals in the boxes can be prepared by adding boiling water. ‘Cold boxes’ of provisions including tinned food are also available and do not require any heating.
Source – Mailonline, 18 Apr 2015
Not too long before the general election, but that doesn’t stop the government’s personal money making machine slow down.
In the latest abuse of their power, the government are selling off the Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera) who are responsible for food safety in the UK.
Guess who the government are trying to sell it to? Their ‘preferred partner’ Capita.
Professor Tim Lang, a Westminster adviser, told The Independent that the sale of the key government research unit to the outsourcing giant Capita could undermine essential work on food safety and lead to commercial concerns being put before the public interest.
Capita formally takes over the agency next Wednesday. But Professor Lang, who heads City University London’s food policy unit, said: “I think it’s absolutely scandalous. This is selling the state, and the moment a state loses its access to science it’s in trouble.”
He claimed many food policy…
View original post 878 more words
A homeless man has been provided with food, blankets, warm clothing and temporary shelter by generous Berwick residents.
The plight of Daniel, a 29-year-old man sleeping rough in the town, was aired on Facebook by local resident Iain Mitchell.
The news quickly spread and many more people have since offered their support.
As a result, he was provided with four nights’ accommodation in Berwick, a sleeping bag, blanket, clothes, replacement trainers, food and drink.
Efforts are now being made to provide Daniel with a more permanent solution.
“The response has been unbelievable,” said Iain. “I never thought one post would show there are so many kind-hearted people out there. I’d just like to thank everyone for their help.”
He was prompted into action when he drove past the Aldi supermarket last Wednesday night and saw Daniel huddled up as the temperature dropped to -2C.
“I initially thought he was waiting for a lift but then I saw him again half an hour later so I went into the Shell garage and a lady there told me he was homeless,” said Iain.
“I went to get him a McDonald’s and a large cup of tea. The smile on his face to receive something as simple as food nearly brought me to tears.
“We got talking and I found out the few bags he had were all his worldly possessions. I realised what a nice person Daniel is as we shared a few jokes. I then thought this guy can’t stay out here all night so I got him some old trainers as the ones he was wearing were falling to bits and when I returned, another wonderful kind-hearted person had provided him with a quilt, clean towel, socks, boxers and other essentials.
“He didn’t even have a sleeping bag as his was wrecked due to the weather so this person provided Daniel with things to make sure he would stay dry and warm which hopefully would see him through the night.”
Iain’s facebook friends then secured accommodation. Although this was initially for one night, further helpers came on board and paid for four nights.
“I want to personally thank Cindy and Sarah who got the ball rolling and to Kerry Anne Bell who paid for extra nights and also to the other people offering to pay for more nights for Daniel, and people who brought food clothes and other essentials,” said Iain.
“I didn’t do anything anywhere close to what most have done, so you all deserve big thanks for such acts of kindness to help someone you don’t know.”
Source – Berwick Advertiser, 16 Jan 2015
300,000 more people could be living in “absolute poverty” in the UK than previously thought, according to a shocking new report.
Research from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) found that poorer households have experienced larger increases in living costs than richer households, mainly due to rises in food and energy prices.
> Well – who’d have guessed ?
IFS say that taking into account “differential inflation” since 2010-11, the number of people recorded as being in absolute poverty would be 300,000 higher in 2013-14 than official figures suggest.
Between 2002-03 and 2013-14 the poorest 20% of households saw prices increase on the typical goods they purchase by 50%, compared to richest 20% who saw prices rise by 43%.
According to the IFS, poorer households devote more of their income on things like food and energy, whereas the richest 20% of British society spend more on areas such as motoring and mortgages.
On average, the prices of goods purchased by low-income households have risen more quickly than those more commonly purchased by more affluent households. This is particularly apparent in the ‘wake’ of the 2008 recession, say IFS.
The government uses two different methods of measuring poverty in the UK. The first is ‘absolute poverty’, which is a measure of the number of people thought of as being below a poverty line, before housing costs, calculated using the Retail Price Index (RPI). Through this measure we can confidently say that 18.8% of individuals were living in absolute poverty in 2012-13, before housing costs.
Another method used by the government is relative poverty, which calculates the number of households earning less that 60% of the national median average. Using this method we can calculate that 15.4% of the UK population were living in ‘relative poverty’ (before housing costs) in 2012-13.
The IFS study also accounts for different inflation pressures felt by households depending on how they spend their income – a measurement not included in official poverty statistics. This new measurement found that absolute poverty is 0.5% higher in 2013/14 than standard poverty measures- the equivalent of 300,000 more households.
However, the IFS say this trend has not been consistent over earlier years, adding that “this new definition had been at times higher and at times lower”.
Peter Levell, a Research Economist at IFS said:
“In recent years, lower-income households have tended to see bigger increases in their cost of living than have better off households.
“Official poverty measures do not take this into account and hence have arguably understated recent increases in absolute poverty by a small but not insignificant margin.”
Rachel Reeves MP, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said:
“This report is further evidence of the huge pressures which families are facing as a result of David Cameron’s cost-of-living crisis.
“The Government’s failure to tackle soaring energy, childcare bills and low wages has led to millions struggling to get by. Earlier in the year the IFS said child poverty is set to rise 900,000 by 2020.
“A Labour Government will do more to help families who are struggling to make ends meet so that every child gets the best start in life. We will freeze energy prices, raise the minimum wage, extend free childcare provision, scrap the Bedroom Tax and introduce a Compulsory Jobs Guarantee to get people off benefits and into work.”
> But getting people off benefits and into work doesn’t mean those people will necesserily be any better off. Maybe Labour should really be thinking about capping rents, energy, public transport and food prices ? But of course they won’t really change anything much, they’ve bought into the system too far to do that.
Source – Welfare Weekly, 05 Nov 2014
Pupils dug deep to show support for a local foodbank with a harvest festival collection.
West Newcastle Academy held its harvest festival on October 22.
The school’s 40 pupils donated fruit and vegetables along with tinned food, pasta and rice to help those in need.
Rae Lowe, school business manager, said:
“We’re based in Benwell and we’re possibly more aware of some of the challenges people face partly from our children and partly from being part of that community.
“Obviously we wanted to collect food and pass it one of the food banks, we’re aware it’s something that the community needs.”
The school, which has 40 pupils across Reception and Year One, will eventually grow to being a fully-fledged primary school with classes up to Year Six.
Pupils spend time following the National Curriculum but two days a week spend time outdoors either at museums, forests or the coast.
Ms Lowe added:
“For us this was very much part of our ethos.
“We want to look after and be part of the community and it is important that we give back.
“We have a holistic approach to education.
“It’s very important that the children learn to read, write and do maths but to learn the holistic approach and learn about the community is vital.”
> If only we had a few holistic politicians…
The food was collected for the Newcastle West End Food Bank, operated by the Trussell Trust.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 23 Oct 2014
A Sunderland city councillor who claimed more than £26,000 in expenses in two years has resigned.
Labour representative Neville Padgett suddenly stepped down from his Washington East seat just five months after he was re-elected in May.
Earlier this year, there were calls for 68-year-old Mr Padgett to resign when figures showed he was claiming £1,250 per month on top of his annual £8,369 basic allowance – more than he would receive if he were in a minimum wage job.
It’s understood that Mr Padgett attended a meeting of Sunderland City Council’s standards board on Friday, although council bosses would not confirm this .
Council chief executive Dave Smith said in a statement:
“The city council can confirm a notice of resignation has been received from Coun Neville Padgett. A notice of vacancy in the Washington East ward will be published in due course.”
Mr Padgett hit the headlines in March when the 2012/13 expenses were published. He was found to have claimed £11,000 – almost a third of the £34,000 total claimed by all 75 councillors.
The expenses included food, refreshments, and mileage claims. At the time, he justified the latter by claiming to spend one day a week driving around every street in his ward to check on litter problems.
Then figures released in April showed that in 2013/14, he had claimed even more – just over £15,000 – to supplement his basic allowance.
A month later, voters in Washington East re-elected him for another term in a landslide victory. Tory opposition leader Lee Martin, who has led calls for Mr Padgett to step down, has now asked the council to investigate.
Coun Martin said he plans to table a question for the November meeting of the full council in order that any findings of the standards board are made public. He said:
“I have asked for the council to investigate whether there was any wrongdoing. I believe his resignation is linked to his expenses.
“I’m still waiting for the council to confirm that they completed the review I asked for to ensure his expenses were legitimate. It is in the public interest to know it has been done properly.”
Mr Padgett’s former Labour colleague and Washington South councillor Graeme Miller said:
“This is a standards board issue. I don’t know what their report said. I don’t know what the outcome is going to be. He has resigned before the end of the process. Whatever happened on Friday is between Neville and the members of the standards board.”
Council leader Paul Watson said Mr Padgett’s resignation letter cited health grounds and that he needed more time to care for his wife.
“The electorate returned him with a greater majority and there is no better test than the local community making the verdict,” Coun Watson added.
Dave Smith said:
“Concerns were raised earlier this year about re-examining certain councillor expenses claims. These are audited on a risk assessed basis and any issues are raised with individuals in line with the Code of Conduct that all councillors sign.
“Because of the code and its procedures, it would be inappropriate to advise other councillors of an audit conclusion or for the council to make any further comment.”
A spokesman for Labour North said:
“Neville Padgett has not resigned from the Labour Party, but we do understand he has resigned as a councillor on Sunderland City Council.”
Source – Sunderland Echo, 17 Oct 2014
Tears rolling down her cheeks, mum Katie Friend reveals the true cost of austerity.
In an emotional outburst she reveals the measures she resorted to just to feed her son.
Katie and husband Mal ate tinned casserole and powdered mash potato, while two-year-old Theo unwrapped presents from the charity shop on Christmas Day.
They were later forced to resort to emergency food parcels to give Theo a birthday party to disguise to him they were living on the bread line.
And today, Katie, a trained nursery nurse, tells how the family would have gone hungry if it wasn’t for the volunteers at the Gateshead Foodbank.
The 24-year-old, who now works part-time in a laundry, is telling her story to erase the stigma associated with foodbanks and to help other families in need.
Katie, whose husband has now found a full-time job, said:
“I have been brought up not to ask for help. I come from a proud family and when you’re struggling you just have to get on with it.
“My husband is very much the same but we had to swallow our pride – not just for us but for Theo. He needed food.
“I came down to the foodbank and I was actually shaking. I was terrified, I felt so embarrassed and ashamed and felt like such a bad mum.
“I thought I would come in and find homeless people queuing up. I came in and it was lovely and bright and I was greeted with a smile.
“It was the total opposite of what I thought it was going to be.”
The Friends were plunged into poverty when their benefits were sanctioned just days before Christmas last year.
Katie desperately tried to hide the fact she was struggling until organisers at St Chad’s Community Project noticed something was wrong.
And as she faced Christmas without any food she plucked up the courage to visit Gateshead Foodbank in the centre of Gateshead.
Volunteers provided her with emergency food parcels to get her through the festive period.
“We were sat having sandwiches. I was sat with my husband and my son cuddled up on the sofa watching the TV. My son opened presents from the charity shop.
“He appreciated them and we had a good day.
“When I think of what somebody else had at Christmas and what we had at Christmas I think it’s hard for somebody to believe that’s what we did.
“Everybody expects everyone can afford to have that day but not everyone can. We would have been able to afford that if we hadn’t have had that sanction.
“I’ll always remember that Christmas, the Christmas we couldn’t afford to have.
“We had tinned casserole and powdered mash potato but we could have had no food. I had a smile on my face on Christmas morning and I wouldn’t have had that if it wasn’t for the foodbank.”
The benefit sanction was lifted after Christmas and Katie and her husband began to get their lives back on track.
But in a second blow – just months later – the family had to resort to handouts when their welfare was recalculated.
And with Theo’s birthday just around the corner and food to find for a pre-planned party Katie received help from the foodbank again.
“It takes over your whole life. People say your in a dark place but you don’t see anything else going on. When I look back I was really down.
“I had the idea that the foodbank was just for homeless people and we weren’t entitled to anything. People donate the food to help people in your situation and you shouldn’t feel bad.
“It has been given for a purpose, you don’t have to feel bad.
“I’m so glad I swallowed my pride. I wasn’t a bad parent, I was a better parent for providing for my child and getting help.”
She added: “I’m just a normal person and just one of many people that got into this situation.”
The foodbank, which has been open nearly two years, is ran by volunteers from churches in Gateshead. It works with care professionals, GPs and the Citizens Advice Bureau to distribute food to those families in need in the town.
They provide three days of emergency food to people who find themselves in need.
For more information, call 0191 487 0898 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Source – Newcastle Evening chronicle, 17 Oct 2014
Government funding cuts to local authority welfare provision will leave struggling families starving and at risk of eviction, councils leaders will warn today.
Government funding for local welfare assistance schemes is to be scrapped by the Communities Minister Eric Pickles, removing £347 million in emergency aid for the very poorest in our society.
The funding is used by local authorities to help aid struggling families in their hour of need to purchase food, fuel, rent, clothing, or replacing crucial home appliances such as a freezer or cooker – among other uses. Some of those who will be affected by the change are benefit claimants, who may have been hit by draconian sanctions or delayed payments.
The Local Government Association (LGA) is calling on the government to rethink their position, warning that councils will not be in a financial position to fill the funding gap.
LGA research has found that three-quarters of local councils would be forced to cut local welfare support, or scale back the provision. 15% said they would have to end it completely.
Local welfare assistance schemes replaced crisis loans in 2013. But only a year into the new scheme the government now wishes to scrap central funding; piling unimaginable financial pressure upon local authorities, who have already seen general funding slashed as part of the government’s austerity drive.
Cllr Claire Kober, chair of the Local Government Association’s Resources Board, told the Daily Mirror:
“This fund has been used by councils to provide crucial support to people facing personal crises in their lives, from help paying the rent to putting food on the table.
“We think the Government has made the wrong decision to remove the funding for this safety net and it was misjudged to have done so.
“Thousands of people have been helped through local welfare schemes, which have been far more effective at getting support to those most in need than the Government crisis loans scheme which it replaced.
“If government pulls the plug on funding from April, many local authorities will be unable to afford to make up the difference at a time when we are tackling the biggest cuts to council funding in living memory.”
Citizens Advice Chief Executive, Gillian Guy, said:
“People in crisis would be left stranded by loss of Government support. Even with these important schemes, far too many people are unable to get basics like food, fuel or clothes. Citizens Advice has dealt with more than 25,000 enquiries about local financial assistance in the past year.
“Emergency financial help schemes are a vital part of our state safety net. Acting fast to prevent people in dire financial straits from facing homelessness or health problems is not only the right thing to do for the individuals themselves, but will save councils and Whitehall money further down the line.
“Many councils are good at quickly delivering help to people who have nowhere else to turn. Government should continue to back these lifelines by putting in place long-term programmes which are properly funded and based on the first-hand insight of councils and local charities.”
A government spokesperson said: “This Government has given councils more control because they understand their residents’ welfare needs best. We are now consulting on how funding should be provided for 2015/16.”
Source – Welfare News Service, 06 Oct 2014
Helping rather than prosecuting women caught stealing food to feed their families is reducing reoffending, says a North-East police commissioner.
Durham police and crime commissioner Ron Hogg has declared an innovative scheme to tackle shoplifting by providing support to female offenders a major success.
The initiative has been running for more than a year in County Durham and Darlington.
Women caught shoplifting food to feed their families – who admit the crime – are offered the chance to receive support to help address the reasons behind the theft.
This could include assistance managing their finances or help with drug and alcohol problems.
> How about problems caused by the DWP, such as sanctions, late benefit payments, etc ? Difficult to manage your finances if you don’t actually have any.
Organisations including local authorities and charities help to provide the support.
Women who successfully complete the scheme escape prosecution, while those who deny the crime or fail to complete the programme are still prosecuted where appropriate.
Mr Hogg said that three quarters of women who took part in the scheme did not reoffend, compared to an 80 per cent reoffending rate among those women who did not take part and were prosecuted.
“By being proactive and sympathetic to the cause of shoplifting, we are cutting reoffending dramatically,” the commissioner said.
Mr Hogg said he thought the scheme would work before its launch, however he added: “I am surprised at the massive scale of the success.
“The traditional methods of dealing with low-level crime like this simply do not work.”
Police across the region say food theft has increased in recent years due to pressure on family finances due to economic factors.
Products such as cheese and meat among the most stolen items, according to one report.
The commissioner said his force was finding that it was not just people on benefits who were stealing to eat.
“There are a lot of people who are working who still can’t make ends meet.”
Mr Hogg stressed that repeat offenders caught shoplifting food would still be charged, adding: “If people persist we have no problem prosecuting.”
> But if you still have no money coming in, despite everything, what else are you going to do ?
I suspect this is more aimed at reducing crime by frightening people from continuing – but of course that doesn’t adress the underlying problems.
Better to starve than risk shoplifting ? Depends who’s doing the starving, doesn’t it ?
He said the scheme had the full backing of Durham chief constable Mike Barton.
“He would say it’s not going soft on crime, it’s going sensible,” the commissioner added.
Source – Northern Echo, 22 Aug 2014