A number of local charities and organisations are warning that foodbank usage in the North West could “spiral out of control” as it’s revealed that the region tops the list for demand.
The stark warnings come as the number of families with children needing support from foodbanks continues to rise across the North West – with the region claiming four of the areas with the highest number of children living in poverty – and after statistics released by leading foodbank charity The Trussell Trust revealed that it gave out more food parcels within the region than anywhere else in the UK in 2020.
The warnings also come as predictions claim that more than five million children will be living in deprivation by the end of 2021.
On top of that, according to a report by the Food Foundation, 2.3 million children live in households that have experienced food insecurity in the past sixth months, and 4.7 million adults across the UK now experience food insecurity, which is higher than the levels before the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic hit.
As of March 2021, there are currently 105 foodbanks active across the North West.
This latter figure does not however include food parcels that are provided by schools, local authorities or other independent providers, which is why more and more Greater Manchester charities and initiatives say they are having to step in to help families in need and are now calling on the government to introduce a National Poverty Strategy to provide support before the situation “spirals out of control”.
Graham Whitham – CEO at Greater Manchester Poverty Action – is one of those local names calling for a National Poverty Strategy.
He told ITV Granada: “We urgently need some increases in the support people get through the Benefit System, we’ve got to retain the £20 Universal Credit uplift that was introduced at the start of the pandemic, but that’s just the very first step.
“We need to see increases in Child Benefit and other payments that are targeted at children in families so that all children in this country can live a life that is free from poverty.”
Manzoor Ali – who founded the Chorlton-based foodbank provider Barakah Food Aid over 11 years ago – told ITV Granada of how he has heard tragic stories of young children in the Greater Manchester area having to lick sugar from kitchen tops to stave off hunger.
He said: “I could go on for ages, but one that springs to mind is delivering a food parcel and you check in with the kids sometimes ask how are you doing? Is everything ok? And she responded by saying I am really grateful that you came because she saw her younger brother licking sugar off the kitchen tops, it’s stuff like that, I can’t even explain.
“These people in power make out like they care about the country right now the way I look at it, they care more about money than the people.”
Mr Ali’s latter comments particularly hit home when it’s referenced that all the way back in 2001, the then-Labour Government pledged to eradicate child poverty by 2020, but now 20 years later, several charities in the region say things are much worse than they were when the pledge was made.
In response to the rising numbers of families relying on foodbanks across the region and throughout the UK, the government says it has targeted its support to families “most in need” by raising the living wage and boosting welfare support.
It added £23 million has been allocated to North West councils through the COVID Winter Grant Scheme to help pay for food and essential bills.
A government spokesperson said: “We are committed to making sure every child gets the best start in life.
“This is central to our steadfast determination to level up opportunity across the country. That’s why we’ve targeted our support to families most in need by raising the living wage and we have boosted welfare support by billions.
“Additionally, we have launched the COVID Winter Grant Scheme to help children and families stay warm and well fed during the coldest months and £23 million has already been allocated to councils throughout the North West to help pay for food and essential bills.”
You can find a list of active foodbanks in the region currently accepting and offering support – as in January 2017 by Greater Manchester Poverty Action (GMPA) – via the Greater Together Manchester website here.
Due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic GMPA encourages those in need of support to contact food providers direct.
This is regarded as the best way to find out more about the services they are currently offering.