Probe into rising number of children using food banks

Alex Salmond with food bank volunteers Gordon Murray and Marina Laing

Alex Salmond with food bank volunteers Gordon Murray and Marina Laing

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CALLS have been raised for an official inquiry into the rising number of children being fed from food banks.

The move comes after the News reported of a six-year-old boy begging organisers for more food and cases of parents being forced to send their children to live with other relatives at Christmas as the struggle to feed them proves too much.

In Edinburgh and the ­Lothians almost 2000 children received their Christmas dinner from a food bank this year. Meanwhile, across the region, the number of people turning to this vital service has risen to more than 6000 over the last year.

Chris Mould, executive chairman of the Trussell Trust, labelled the issue “scandalous” before stating that “the time has come” for an official and in-depth inquiry into the causes of food poverty.

This was echoed by Labour MP for Edinburgh South Ian Murray, who also slammed the use of Jobcentre sanctions to dock people’s benefits and the “spiralling cost of living” whilst wages remain static.

He said: “The food bank in my constituency, run by the Blythswood cafe and the Trussell Trust has seen a fivefold increase in usage in just the last 12 months. It’s a disgraceful indictment of government policies. These issues need dealt with by government as a matter of priority.”

A recent report by children’s charity Barnardo’s found that between 2007 and 2012, food prices rose between 19 per cent and 47 per cent.

The cost of essentials such as food and fuel also increased, as benefits were cut, reducing the income of the poorest 
households.

Barnardo’s assistant director of policy and research Neera Sharma said: “It’s a tragedy that in the one of the world’s richest countries, the most vulnerable families can’t afford to buy Christmas dinner for their children.

“They must not be punished for the rising cost of living, and the government can help by making sure that struggling families have enough regular income to feed their children without turning to emergency services.”

Independent MSP Margo Macdonald was also “distraught” at the continued rise of food poverty.

She said: “We know what causes poverty – people need employment so they can earn a wage and take care of their kids.

“What we need to do is adopt a system which shares out the benefits of society fairly.

“Children should not be being fed from food banks while chief executives and others earn millions of pounds.

“This is why people cannot afford to vote No in the upcoming referendum. The British way of managing current resources is broken.”

david.oleary@edinburghnews.com