‘Explosion’ in numbers forced to use food banks

MORE than 5800 struggling residents in the Capital received emergency supplies from food banks in 2014 – up more than three-fold on the year before.

Bethanay Monaghan, warehouse manager at a food bank distribution centre in Broomhouse. Picture@ Scott Taylor
Bethanay Monaghan, warehouse manager at a food bank distribution centre in Broomhouse. [email protected] Scott Taylor

Children accounted for almost a third of those helped to keep the wolf from the door by the Trussell Trust’s foodbanks in Edinburgh last year.

The increase has been blamed largely on the growing number of sanctions being taken against single parents in particular as a result of recent changes to the benefit system.

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Trussell Trust banks helped 5836 people between April and September last year, including 1733 children, compared with 1788 over the same period in 2013. Only 567 children were helped in 2013.

It is understood the vast majority of people using the food banks – up to 90 per cent – made only a single visit.

Ewan Gurr, Scotland network manager, said: “It is heartbreaking to look at what can only be described as an explosion in food bank use. Our capital city is steeped in a rich history and has many beautiful images we associate with wealth. Nevertheless, what these figures reveal is that beyond the Castle, the galleries and the Parliament is a city where hidden hunger is present and where prosperity and austerity co-exist in close proximity to one another.”

The situation has been branded “appalling” by welfare campaigners, who blamed them on benefits changes and a growing dependenceon part-time and casual employment. Wendy Walton, a community activist with Greater Leith Against the Cuts, said: “It looks like this is down to increasing sanctions during the benefit changeovers, particularly for single parents.

“And-low income families cannot sustain themselves. They don’t have enough money to see them through to the end of the month and they’re having to use food banks.

“It’s the working poor having to use food banks and it’s appalling in the 21st century. You have zero hours contracts and there’s been an increase in part-time work. People are not able to budget from week to week because of the simple fact that they don’t know how many hours they’re going to be working from week to week, and they’re not earning enough to meet their everyday needs.”

Social care leaders admitted the trust’s figures were concerning but said they were determined to ease the burden on hard-pressed families.

Councillor Ricky Henderson, health, social care and housing leader, said: “No-one should have to live in poverty and the Capital Coalition is committed to reducing deprivation and inequality by working closely with our partners in both the public and third sector, as well as with local communities.”