Today I am leading a debate in Westminster Hall on Food Poverty in the run up to Christmas. It is a national scandal, prevalent here in Liverpool and across the country. The Tory-led Government’s double-dip recession has led to a cost of living crisis in the UK. There has been a massive growth in food poverty as families struggle with higher living costs, lower wages, reduced working hours and welfare changes.
The Trussell Trust , who organise many foodbanks estimate that they will feed 230,000 people in 2012-13, nearly double the number they fed in 2011-12, and they warn that this Christmas is looking even bleaker for families on the breadline. Here in Liverpool in the last 12 months, Central Liverpool foodbank has fed 3900 people, including 1307 children, whilst North Liverpool foodbank has fed 3470 people of which 1272 of these were children.
The most common reason given for people having to access foodbanks is delays in benefits, whilst the second highest is low income. At a time when government policies are freezing or cutting household incomes, it is clear that the blame for this scandal lies with government.
I have made a film – Breadline Britain – to highlight this disgraceful situation. Labour are also encouraging supermarkets and major food retailers to donate more of their edible food to charity rather than send it to landfill.
Ultimately however, this situation can only be addressed by the government changing course, and delivering a programme that creates jobs and growth, and provides households and families with the support they need. That is why I have secured the debate today. We need to bring home to the government the true picture of food poverty, not just in Liverpool, but across our country. The festive period puts into sharp focus the reality of the challenges that thousands of people are facing, as they struggle simply to have enough to eat. The government need to act, and act now. That is what I, and many of my colleagues will be calling for in Westminster today.