Hit by recession, working Britons turn to food charities

October 21st, 2008 - 2:54 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Oct 21 (IANS) Many working class people in recession-hit Britain are now turning to food charities to feed their families.Charity houses opened a free food centre in Salisbury, England last week. More centres are to open at Plymouth, Exeter, Lincoln, Ebbw Vale, Okehampton and Haverhill in the coming weeks.

Set up by a Christian charity, the Trussell Trust, in 2004, the food banks are staffed by volunteers from nearby businesses. They are supplied entirely by donations.

The Independent has reported long queues of people - even the employed jostling with those on benefits - at the Salisbury food bank, awaiting free parcels of food.

The parcels contain pasta, porridge oats and tinned fruit and can sustain a small family for nearly a week.

The food banks distribute food coupons to key people in the local community, like teachers, doctors, health and social workers. They in turn give out those vouchers to the needy who can visit the food bank and get parcels in exchange for the coupons.

The parcels are placed in ordinary supermarket carrier bags to reduce the social stigma that many people feel at accepting charity.

“People don’t want to admit when life is imploding,” said Jeremy Ravn of the Trussell Trust. “Many of the people who come to us appear wealthy - some of them have their own businesses - and they don’t like to make it known that it is a choice between paying the rent and feeding the kids.”

The government only offers food aid to pregnant women and those with children up to four years, but not to working families. Food banks are their only solace.

Other British charities like the Salvation Army and the British Red Cross are now considering extending their food provisions to people in crisis.

The emergence of food banks is a clear indication of Britain being firmly in the grip of a recession predicted to last a year. According to Peter Spencer, chief economist at Ernst & Young, the downturn will bottom out in the second half of 2009, and there will be growth in 2010, but only by one percent.

The people are trying out all ways of making extra money to feed their families. Nearly two-thirds have taken on extra work, sold their possessions or turned their hobby into a cash-generating venture, according to a survey by American Express Platinum.

Eight out of 10 people make extra cash by filling in online marketing surveys; 72 percent sell possessions on internet auction sites; and one in 20 write blogs that generate advertising revenue.

Others are earning money by playing in a band, growing fruit and vegetables to sell at local markets, making clothing or jewellery, or teaching anything from music to foreign languages.

The average pay rise has been 3.4 percent this year, the lowest in the last five years, according to official figures. While incomes have risen marginally, the out-goings in terms of bills for food, gas, electricity, heating and transport have nearly doubled.

Officials have said unemployment is expected to exceed two million by the end of this year; other economic indicators like the housing market, investment and savings have been hit. Some of the major banks have just survived a rude closure scare and the government is taking measures to encourage them back into lending.

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