Going Hungry in Britain

Kieran Dodds

Over the past decade, the number of people receiving food parcels from food banks in the United Kingdom has increased 40-fold with almost one million people turning up at distribution centres between 2013 and 2014.~~People don’t want to be seen using a foodbank. The story of Britain’s hunger gap remains hidden behind closed doors, illustrated only by neat stacks of tins and pasta. This is the story about the foodbank supply lines to the homes and kitchens of hungry people in 21st century Britain. A simple meal is taken for granted for those who have enough. These images show the impact of emergency food aid - three days of three square meals - in the homes of those who have experienced the need and the shame of asking for assistance.

Stories of personal sacrifice are common amongst foodbank users. Parents going hungry to keep their children fed or people choosing between having a third meal and keeping the heating on. Every week, food banks spring up in village halls and church centres to meet the growing demand. Though difficult to quantify, the UK's largest network of food banks, the Trussell Trust, fed nearly one million people in 2013/14, more than double the year before and a colossal leap from only 25,000 five years previously.~~Food banks originated in the US in the 1960s and spread to Europe in the 1980s with the first one catering for hungry Parisians from 1984 onwards. And while social welfare systems in many European countries have just about kept up with growing numbers of destitute, unemployed and poor people, the 2008 financial crash made the numbers of those in need shoot up. UK food prices have continued to increase, rising by 43.5 % over the eight years to July 2013.~~Fuel and accommodation has become more expensive as well, despite a recent drop in oil prices, and wages have not kept up with these rises. Many food bank users report that one of the main reasons for their trouble is delayed welfare payments. But there is no 'typical' food bank user. As prices rise and the gap between rich and poor widens, more and more people find themselves caught in a vicious circle of poverty.~~On either side of the struggling families and individuals the debate rages about the pros and cons of food banks. Are they the shining example of community action in times of adversity and thus an example of Prime Minister Cameron's much maligned concept of 'The Big Society'? Or are they the result of a failing government and a welfare state that is abandoning the most needy? With a General Election on 7 May 2015, the issues around food banks and the fact that people are going hungry in one of the richest nations on earth will need to be addressed by any party forming the next government.

 

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      United Kingdom

      Robert Wagstaff, 48.
      'I used the foodbank...

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      The inside of the food cupboard of Robert Wagstaff,...

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      Alice Kimmins, 62.
      'I love baking. If I had my...

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      The view through the steamed-uo window of Alice...

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      The cat of Alice Kimmins, 62, in front of an electric...

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      Antonia Francisco, 32, is a sales advisor living with...

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      Kevin (52) and Angela Turner (51).
      We were putting...

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      George Osburne, Chancellor of the Exchequer,...

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      The gas meter at the house of Kevin (52) and Angela...

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      Lunchtime in the house of Kevin (52) and Angela...

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      David Heselton, 44.
      'To sum it up I felt like shit...

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      June Holt, 60, Durham.
      'You won't believe it but...

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      David and June (l-r) have both been helped by food...

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      Stuart Hudson, manager of a distribution centre which...

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      A view of Durham and Durham Cathedral.

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      A stained glass window depicts Jesus, now obscured by...

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      Morning prayers at Christ Church in Fulham, London,...

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      A table and two chairs inside the Hammersmith and...

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      A checklist is ticked as items are gathered for a...

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      The store room inside Hammersmith and Fulham food...

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      Cereal boxes lie stacked on a shelf at the Camden...

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      Red dots on a map mark where there are food banks run...

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      Bags of shopping donated by local schools lie on the...

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      Items of baby food in the store room inside...

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      Pasta sauces, condiments and curry sauce line a shelf...

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      Boxes stored inside the store room of Hammersmith and...

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      A collection of food being given away on a street in...

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      Chalk marks on the ground near Durham railway station...

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