The Foodbank network provided more than 1 million 3 day food supplies to people in crisis in the last year, that’s right, 1 MILLION. Which is higher than it has ever been.
Now, what does this look like on a local level?
Well, our statistics here at York Foodbank are slightly down on last year, so we somewhat buck the national trend, and of course, this is great news! We always say that our future aim is to not be needed anymore, so this is a step in the right direction, even if it is a baby step!
It feels like sometimes it is hard to know what to celebrate, although our stats are better than last year, it doesn’t mean that the problem is going away anytime soon, and we absolutely cannot become complacent.
The number of people we are seeing, or indeed the fact that we are still seeing people at all, is still too many!
Benefit delays, changes and sanctions being the main reason. This could be a sanction for missing an appointment (often through no fault of their own), delays in benefit payments, particularly when putting in a new claim and awaiting a descision. It is also still the case that we are seeing people as a result of insecure and low paid work.
I think these issues, teamed with high living cost (especially in York) are what push people too far.
From my time here as the York Foodbank manager, I think the thing that still impacts me the most is that these people are just like you and I. We could talk all day long about numbers, statistics and trends. We could debate until the cows come home about blame, responsibility, politics and reasons, I mean lets face it – it’s complicated!
But the fact of the matter is that behind each and every food parcel is an individual, a family, a parent. Perhaps most importantly a fellow human being, who are in unfortunate circumstances, who has a story, dreams and ambitions and never dreamt that they would be in this situation.
So, what do they need?
- A helping hand
- Breathing space
- To be treated like a human and not a number
- Respect and understanding
- Time to talk
- Love and support
Isn’t that what we would all want should we ever find ourselves in their shoes? Because let’s face it, poverty is not discriminatory, it could happen to anyone.
How long would you be ok for if you lost your job tomorrow?
Perhaps it’s difficult to think about.
But think about it we must, we have a shared responsibility to support those who need it most.
So, let’s shift the narrative, open our eyes, extend a helping hand and begin to build the kind of society where no one need worry about how they are going to eat.
We live in one of the world’s wealthiest countries, the fact is we shouldn’t need foodbanks, something in our society isn’t working, so for the sake of all of those 1 million we helped last year – let’s take poverty seriously.
We will not sit back on our laurels and say our work here is done until our centres are empty and no one is coming through the door.