The run on British food banks

The government's record on 'food poverty' has come under scrutiny following calls to cut state spending.

Just days after George Osborne was accused of taking Britain back to the 1930s, the coalition's "record on food poverty" has come under scrutiny, says The Times.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said that the nature of hunger he has encountered in Britain shocks him more than anything he has witnessed in Africa; the Trussell Trust reports that food bank use is increasing sharply; and a report by the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Hunger in the UK has called for a new publicly funded body, Feeding Britain, to roll out a number of measures, including state-backed food banks.

According to the report, people go hungry simply because they cannot afford food, says John McDermott in the FT. From 1953 to 2003 the amount spent on subsistence fell as a share of household income. Over the last decade, for poorer people, that has reversed.

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Food prices are up 47%; average rents 30.4%, and energy prices 153.6%. Wages and benefits have not kept up. On top of this, the government's benefits changes have left people without any money for weeks. Supermarkets and farmers discard more than four million tonnes of food a year.

The Department for Work and Pensions needs a shake-up to remedy those pernicious delays, and we also need to tackle low pay, says Maria Eagle, MP, in The Independent. The report estimates that up to 25% of those who rely on food banks are in low-paid work.

But as for food banks themselves, the last thing we need is the "dead hand of the state", says Robin Aitken, co-founder of the Oxford Food Bank, in the Daily Mail.

"The state has to shrink, not expand. It is exactly the wrong money, to be talking about taxpayers' money for food banks."

Aitken is tired of hearing the left say that food banks "disgrace" Britain. They do the reverse. They show our society is still humane. "Public money will not make them better it will merely engulf them in an already overextended welfare state."

Emily Hohler

Emily has extensive experience in the world of journalism. She has worked on MoneyWeek for more than 20 years as a former assistant editor and writer. Emily has previously worked on titles including The Times as a Deputy Features Editor, Commissioning Editor at The Independent Sunday Review, The Daily Telegraph, and she spent three years at women's lifestyle magazine Marie Claire as a features writer for three years, early on in her career. 

On MoneyWeek, Emily’s coverage includes Brexit and global markets such as Russia and China. Aside from her writing, Emily is a Nutritional Therapist and she runs her own business called Root Branch Nutrition in Oxfordshire, where she offers consultations and workshops on nutrition and health.