THE number of people needing to use foodbanks in Chester and the surrounding areas has risen to almost 5,000.
In 2013 the West Cheshire Foodbank, which provides emergency food packages for people in Chester, Ellesmere Port and Neston, saw a total of 4,995 people including 1,632 children come through the doors so they didn’t go hungry.
The foodbank, which is part of the Trussell Trust network, has said it has seen a “shocking” increase in the number of people going to the foodbank and blamed the “unfair” changes to the welfare system for the increase.
Alec Spencer, development officer at West Cheshire Foodbank said: “The figures are very alarming. There’s been a record increase in the number of people needing foodbanks in 2013. In West Cheshire we’ve had to provide emergency food to 3,363 adults and 1,632 children.
“Obviously, there’s something seriously wrong when almost 5,000 people have needed our foodbank in just one year but what I find most shocking is just how quickly the number of people going hungry is growing.
“2013 has been an incredibly difficult time for people on low incomes not just because of falling real wages and rising costs but also because we’ve seen particularly unfair policies taking effect, for example around sanctions and the bedroom tax. It seems like our social safety net is being torn apart.
“The Government needs to take this evidence seriously, but so far it seems to have ignored the reasons why more people are going hungry, perhaps because it’s not politically convenient.
“We need our political leaders to be morally courageous and start acting to ensure that people in crisis don’t go hungry.”
Last week the Trussell Trust, the UK’s largest foodbank network, said more people are being referred to their foodbanks than ever before. Demand for food parcels has risen to over 900,000 across the country, which they say is caused by changes in the welfare system and delays in payment as well as rising living costs, static or low pay and underemployment.
Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Chester, Chris Matheson, said: “These figures are truly dreadful. I have the utmost admiration for the organisers of our local foodbank, but we must ask the fundamental question of why foodbanks are needed in the 21st century in the UK, and why the numbers are going up so quickly.
“We know there is a major cost of living crisis in Chester, but these shocking figures show that many more local families are living on or below the poverty line.”
Andrew Miller, Labour MP for Ellesmere Port and Neston, said the Government had failed poor families.
He said: “For families on low incomes it is becoming harder and harder to make ends meet and without the support of local foodbanks many would not be able to feed their children.
“This Government has failed low paid families and succeeded in widening the gap between the rich and the poor.
How can we believe in Tory policies and statistics when this is happening in Britain today?”
The Conservative MP for Chester, Stephen Mosley, said he supported the work foodbanks were doing.
He said: “A recent report by the OECD (the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) showed that the number of people who are going hungry in the UK is down since the financial crisis. With 1.5 million more people in work since 2010, that’s not surprising.
“But there is no cause for complacency. So long as anybody, anywhere is going hungry, there is still work to be done.
“It’s important that those who would benefit from visiting a foodbank are able to do so. That’s why this Government is allowing the Jobcentre to refer people to foodbanks – something the last Labour government never allowed as some people went hungry without help.
“I recently met with the foodbank and its referral agencies and I have previously visited the Chester foodbank.
“It’s very clear to me that communities across Chester are determined to address food poverty and help those less fortunate than themselves. They have my full support.”