There are a lot of foodbanks in the UK. The Trussell Trust network of foodbanks encompasses more than 1,200 distribution centres, while the Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN) has counted a further 714 independent foodbanks right across the UK.
That’s thousands of ordinary people, mostly volunteers, who give up their time to help their neighbours in a time of crisis with food generously donated by the public. In fact we worked alongside our friends at IFAN to calculate that volunteers contribute more than 4 million hours in support to UK foodbanks every year.
And no two are alike. Some are Trussell Trust, some are independent. Many are in churches, but many are not. Some are extremely large – our foodbank in Coventry distributed nearly 9,000 packages from April-September alone – while some are very small.
But though they have their differences, everyone who has spent any time in a foodbank has something extraordinary in common. Over the past year alone they have borne witness to hundreds of thousands of men, women and children no longer able to afford heating, lighting, or toiletries – no longer able to afford even food to eat.
In the six months since April, foodbanks in The Trussell Trust network have distributed more than 584,000 emergency three-day food supplies to people referred in crisis – a sharp increase on the same period the year before.
That is why this All Party Parliamentary Group on Foodbanks is so welcome. A problem on this scale cannot be tackled by foodbanks alone. A large part of the solution will be with Government and politicians of all major parties.
Already, foodbanks have been doing much more than simply providing emergency food to people in crisis. Their desire to speak out about what they are seeing, and to change a system that leaves people in such dire need, has already led to them being a regular fixture of debate in these halls.
I hope this APPG on foodbanks can further bolster the influence of the foodbank movement, share their expertise, and enhance our relationship with politicians of all parties so that we can work together better to end the poverty that leads to such widespread hunger once and for all.
More information about the new All-Party Parliamentary Group on Foodbanks can be found here.