Here at The Brick we have been running a food bank as part of the charity since 2013 – this giving out of food and hot drinks was really what started the whole charity off, so it has always been a critical but non-funded part of our service. Last year we gave out over 10,000 food parcels to individuals and families affected by food poverty across Wigan.
Over the last 2 years we have had time to reflect and whilst our food bank is actually most often the first contact we have with an individual or family, it is nearly always their last resort. Our food bank acts as a gateway to other often more vital services but it can take months or even years for the underlying cause of food deprivation to be identified. Now it is more crucial than ever as the cost of living spirals, and we are facing a magnitude of need, that we change our focus to prevent families from hitting crisis point and we start to empower our community by helping to tackle the social injustices and inequalities that exist in the 5th richest country in the world.
Sadly, food banks have become normalised, it is a default response, and food poverty is becoming worse as we see more and more people struggling to meet their everyday bills. The cuts to Universal Credit in October 2021, the five-week wait, the two-child limit, the benefit cap, the sanctions system, and No Recourse to Public Funds status just exuberates the problem. We are seeing an increasing number of people in work asking for help, people who previously donated food are facing the same struggles and insecurities and are even seeking help themselves. Every day we give out parcels without questioning ‘’how would you feel about having to ask for food?’’
So we started to ask, we started to listen, this is just a small section of what we heard:
‘’This the first time I’ve reached such hard times I can’t even afford any food’’
‘’I’m so embarrassed to seek out as I’ve no idea what I can do. I start a new job tomorrow and my son is going to half term activity club so we both need packed lunches’’
‘’I’m not sure what to do it’s awful. Sorry to ask for your help when your busy enough’’
‘’I’m just wondering how i would go about getting a food parcel, i work but I don’t get a wage this month and no food in for me and my 4 year old daughter’’
A bag of emergency food is no longer enough, people are ashamed and we no longer want to be part of the systemic injustice and power imbalance that Food Banks perpetuate. We want to tackle the root causes and look forward to a sustainable, fair and dignified solution by demanding changes to the unjust conditions that have made food banks so necessary.