MP WRITES: Hartlepool foodbanks need YOU!

BUSY TIME: Foodbank co-ordinator, Al Wales with some of the groceries already donated to the campaign.
BUSY TIME: Foodbank co-ordinator, Al Wales with some of the groceries already donated to the campaign.

Not being able to feed yourself and your family is horrific and frightening at any time of the year.

In December, however, as people are thinking of the food and drink they will be having over Christmas, it must be particularly harsh.

This week, the Hartlepool Mail has reported that use of the town’s foodbank has gone up by 24 per cent in the past year.

Much of that increase is as a result of people who are in work but don’t earn enough in wages to cover the basics like eating and heating.

The Mail’s report comes on the back of the Archbishop of Canterbury, a former Bishop of Durham who knows this part of the world well and who has sat in my office in Hartlepool discussing these issues, stating that “the hunger that stalks this country” is rightly a source of real shame.

A committee of MPs has also this week said that hunger in the UK is a growing problem and the rise of foodbanks is something which needs to be urgently addressed.

Matters are not helped when you have politicians almost adopting a “let them eat cake” attitude.

A Tory baroness said this week that people use foodbanks because the poor don’t know how to cook.

Matthew Hancock, the Tory Business Minister, said at the weekend that use of foodbanks is on the rise because more people have heard of them. What utter guff. What well-fed planet are these people on?

People go to foodbanks because of a financial emergency.

They do not have enough money to buy food, not because they think they can get free food and spend their money on something else.

In Hartlepool, the sense of working class shame at relying on charity remains very strong.

People in the town would only do it because they are desperate and do it as a very last resort.

In my constituency surgery on Friday, two people separately said that they didn’t know how they could eat this week.

The notion that you are in work but that the wages are so low that you cannot afford food is the clearest example I can think of that the economy doesn’t work well for many people.

Financial emergencies, like the kids needing new shoes, can throw people’s budgeting off kilter.

Wages haven’t grown for many years, while the cost of essentials has gone up and up.

Put together insecure and part-time work and the rise of zero hours contracts, where many people don’t know what they are earning from one week to the next, and it is little wonder that many people in our town will be struggling this Christmas.

Even the Financial Times, not necessarily known for commenting about social issues, wrote a strong article this week about this matter. “Food banks are a symptom of a wider problem” it wrote. “When the working poor in Britain can no longer feed themselves, politicians cannot turn a blind eye”. I fully agree. The economy has to be fixed so that working people have the wages and financial resources to climb out of poverty.

If you are doing the big Christmas shop in the next couple of weeks, you might be debating about whether to buy another carton of ice cream, I really ask you to consider the Hartlepool foodbank too, and our fellow Hartlepudlians, more often than not in work, who might have a hungry Christmas for themselves and their families.

It makes me extremely angry to think that a modern economy, one of the richest in the world, where properties are selling in London for over £120 million, have working people in our town unable to feed themselves and their loved ones. Something has gone profoundly wrong which needs to be fixed.

But in the short term, please, please donate some food to Hartlepool FoodBank to allow some people of our town to eat this Christmas.