Tagged: Gateshead Foodbank

North East councils seen as ‘uncaring’ and ‘part of the problem’ by residents facing food poverty

Food poverty is no longer being seen as a welfare issue as those who suffer from it have got so used to turning to charities for help.

In a report, North East academic Dr Jane Midgley said the huge increase in foodbanks run by the voluntary sector has blurred the lines as to who should be caring for the vulnerable and the needy.

She said a squeeze on incomes, benefit sanctions and rocketing utility bills are the drivers of foodbank use, but people instead see their local council as ‘uncaring’ and ‘part of the problem’.

Dr Midgley, whose research formed part of the Feeding Britain report by the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Hunger in the UK, urged councils to show support for those facing the misery of food poverty and called for more clarity over the root causes of the phenomenon.

She said:

“We are increasingly finding that charities, rather than the state, are supporting people in need who cannot afford to feed themselves.

“While we need to recognise the effort this takes and the difference it makes to peoples lives, the boundaries of this responsibility are far from clear.

“Food poverty is not seen as a welfare issue and because of the way charities and voluntary sector organisations have stepped in, people no longer see local government and the public sector as a source of support.”

Foodbank use exploded in 2014. The Trussell Trust said between April and September 2014, more than 25,000 people were helped by the charity’s Gateshead , Newcastle East and Newcastle West End food banks.

That works out at 4,289 people a month – more than treble the 1,316 people per month in Newcastle and Gateshead who accessed a foodbank in the nine month period between April 2013 and December 2013.

“We are now not just at a critical juncture for how we respond to the issue of food poverty, but also what this means for local policy makers,” Dr Midgley added.

They need to be able to show, in a difficult financial climate, that they still care and want people who live within their towns and cities to live well and flourish.”

 

The Feeding Britain report warned that North families are just one unexpected bill away from food poverty. It said the living wage and speedier benefit payments must form part of the solution.

Councillor Iain Malcolm, leader of South Tyneside Council, said he had “no indication” people were turning on councils and said staff were supportive of people facing the misery of food poverty.

He said:

“We are one of the richest nations in the world and yet we are seeing some of the most terrible cases of poverty in years due to the huge financial pressures being put on hard-working families.

> I do wish politicians would refrain from parrotting hard-working families on issues like this. It implies that those not working for whatever reasion are lazy, and before we know where we are we’re back to the concept of deserving and undeserving poor.

“We are living in a society where rising costs and relentless government cuts across the country are creating much tougher living conditions. Here in South Tyneside we are doing all we can to try and support and protect people who are experiencing the greatest hardship.

“As a council we have committed to the phased introduction of the Living Wage for Council workers from April 2015. This should help people on some of the lowest wages and we hope that other businesses will be able to look to do the same.”

Dave Anderson, MP for Blaydon, said Coalition ministers were to blame for the rise in foodbanks.

He said:

“You can’t sack half a million public sector workers or employ people on exploitative zero hours contracts and expect there to be anything other than a calamitous outcome.

“While ministers enjoy Christmas this week far too many of our people will be struggling, literally, on the breadline. It’s time to stop penalising the poor for the failures of the richest in society.”

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle,  02 Jan 2015

Gateshead mum tells how she was forced to live off emergency food parcels

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.

She said:

“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.

She said:

“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 info@gateshead.foodbank.org.uk

Source –  Newcastle Evening chronicle, 17 Oct 2014