It’s one of the scandals of our times and to the shame of any nation boasting a healthy economy. And yet the spectre of food-banks continues to blight the social landscape. It isn’t just a UK problem however with the concept originating in The United States as far back as the 60’s, and followed by Australia, Canada and areas of continental Europe.

Fascinating Research

Research undertaken by the University of York revealed few Muslims representing 25 per cent of the local population  use the 67 food banks in Bradford. The researchers said possible “inadvertent” reasons for this situation could include the predominance of “white food”, how few non-Muslim organisations were able to cater for cultural diets and that white people were over-represented among the staff of providers.” It’s also a startling fact 29 per cent of children in Bradford are still living under the poverty line. And yet food-banks are still not officially tracked by the government. The get out is it’s not possible to keep count of the number of people using food-banks, without imposing unnecessary burdens on the volunteers running them.

The York study however may not have taken into account different forms of distribution. Ken Leach, food coordinator at the Bradford Metropolitan Food-bank based in Girlington told me: “In our case, housing associations, social workers and various other groups request a food parcel. If it’s for an Asian family we prepare the parcel to best match their needs. If it’s for a vegetarian we cater for that and so on, so everyone gets the right help.

“Making benefit payments much quicker would certainly help along with any alleviation of homeless in the city. Only this morning when I took refuse to a local council wheelie bin, I opened the lid to find a man actually sleeping in the bin. That’s never happened to me before but certainly brings home the problems people encounter on a daily basis. We’d be more than happy if there wasn’t a need for food banks at all.”

Incredibly the food-bank remains on target to reach 13,000 food parcels this year alone, and they tell me demand is increasing yet again.

Families In Crisis

Josie Barlow Manager of the Bradford Central Food-bank told me more than 50 families in crisis come into the food-bank every week. She also confirmed local job centres were still referring people along with a number of other groups, and they recently had to help a dental nurse who’d been made redundant. It’s true to say they do need to help out those from a professional background from time to time.

She said; “We saw a 23 per cent rise in users up to the last years end, and there are no signs things will get better in the near future. There’s no doubt delays in benefits payments are making it hard for many people, and we see the knock on effect of course. October proved to be a really busy month, though winter can generally be a tough time for those in crisis.

“We actually do have quite a lot of people using the food-bank from an Asian background, as there’s a lot of child poverty in the city. All our food packages are put together on dietary advice, so everyone can be catered for. Like other centres we wish there wasn’t a need for such a service, but it’s hard to see things getting any better.”

Pushing The Politicians

In her speech to the Annual Bar and Young Bar Conference 2018, Shadow Attorney General Shami Chakrabarti commented: “I never thought that I would see food-banks next to investment banks in one of the wealthiest countries on Earth.”

The party have pledged in their manifesto to end the scandal of food-banks. And yet sadly, a whistle-blower recently claimed some Labour party staff use pay-day loans and food-banks to make ends meet.

Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Michael Gove, had previously  suggested the pressures faced by families having recourse to food banks were ‘often the result of decisions that they have taken which mean they are not best able to manage their finances.’ His remarks came in for heavy criticism.

Time To End The Shame

In this 21st century digital age surely any politician worth his or her salt must do all they can to end the necessity for food banks in the world’s fifth richest economy.

Anyone interested in donating food or volunteering can contact Bradford Central Food-Bank on 01274 734314