Chamberlain and D’Souza launch food bank inquiry

There are more than 2,000 food banks in the UK and the number of food parcels they give out has risen enormously. The Trussell Trust, which represents 1,300 food banks, issued 2.1 million food parcels in 2021/22, a staggering increase on the 40,000 it issued in 2010.

Not everyone believes these statistics. Tory MP Lee Anderson for one. After a row brewed up over his Queen’s Speech remark that there was not a “massive” need for food banks in the UK, he told Times Radio: “The actual foodbank usage is exaggerated.” He is undoubtedly right that some people do not know how to cook but he is wrong that his local food bank insists on people having to sign up for a cooking course. And he is talking nonsense when he says that food bank use is exaggerated. As for his remark, “we can make a meal for about 30 pence a day, and this is cooking from scratch”, that is very hard to achieve in a home where cooking in bulk is not possible.

With such ignorance in parliament, it is timely that members hold an inquiry into the issue. On Wednesday, Wendy Chamberlain and Baroness D’Souza announced an inquiry by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Ending the Need for Food Banks.

Wendy Chamberlain MP and Baroness D’Souza told The House:

This inquiry is the first of its kind in recent years, and with support from all major parties and both Houses of Parliament, couldn’t come a moment sooner…

At this pivotal moment, with the cost-of-living crisis only getting worse, we simply haven’t seen the action needed in the Queens Speech to help people on the lowest incomes, and avert even more people needing to use food banks.

This was a serious omission with grave consequences for families up and down the country. Further research by the Trussell Trust has shown that last winter – even before inflation and energy prices soared – one in three people receiving Universal Credit were skipping meals. As the current crisis bites, this is only getting worse. Food banks are hearing more and more of people struggling to survive, unable to afford the essentials and making impossible decisions between heating and eating…

This inquiry is a powerful opportunity to highlight the reality of the crisis faced by people on the lowest incomes and will explore solutions to the root causes of foodbank use. Emergency food parcels are not a long term or dignified solution to a systemic problem. We must find a solution…

This inquiry represents a vital opportunity for change and for food banks and people facing impossible decisions to come together and make the case for what needs to happen to create that change…

The cross-party and cross-House nature of the inquiry shows the strength of feeling around the increasing use of foodbanks. This isn’t about party politics, but about achieving what is right and just for our society.

* Andy Boddington is a Lib Dem councillor in Shropshire. He blogs at He is Thursday editor of Lib Dem Voice.

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  • I am delighted to hear, at last, of this initiative by Ms Chamberlain and Baroness D’Souza. Liberal Democrats should take it seriously and as of the very highest priority.

    After I retired as a LibDem Councillor (and Cabinet Member for Social Care) in 2012 I became a Trustee and then Chair of my local Foodbank. I can confirm that between 2010 and 2019 the number of emergency food parcels distributed by the Trussell Trust group of food banks rose from just over 40,000 to well over one and a half million – an increase of 3,900% in 9 years. Others must explain why, though 2010 is an interesting starting point.

    When the issue is considered I hope due notice will be taken of the Alston UN Report on poverty and inequality published back in 2019. I know Ed Davey has a copy because I travelled to London in September 2019 to give one to him. The issue is much deeper than can be resolved simply by the introduction of a so called Universal Basic Income.

    Some links :
    Visit to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern … › record
    Report of Special Rapporteur Philip Alston on his mission to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from 5 to 16 Nov. 2018.

    Poverty in the UK is ‘systematic’ and ‘tragic’, says UN special … › news › uk-48354692
    22 May 2019 — Special rapporteur on extreme poverty Philip Alston said “ideological” cuts to public services since 2010 have led to “tragic consequences”.

  • >I can confirm that between 2010 and 2019 the number of emergency food parcels distributed by the Trussell Trust group of food banks rose from just over 40,000 to well over one and a half million – an increase of 3,900% in 9 years.
    Given the hoops people have to go through to get a bag of food out of a Trussell Trust foodbank, this can be taken to be the tip of the iceberg.

  • nigel hunter 14th May '22 - 11:22pm

    In the long run should not cooking And budgetting for every day living be taught at school ? Single parents are good at both,they have to be.Jack Monroe has appeared on many ‘investigation’ meetings re these problems and should be taken more seriously.
    During WW2 the Ministry of Food educated and provided recipes on cheap, nutritional economical, meals.There were very few obese people for many reasons.I see no reason for not having a Ministry of Food today with our up to date knowledge of food practices.
    This has to go hand in hand with an increase in Universal Credit.

  • Nonconformistradical 15th May '22 - 7:56am

    “In the long run should not cooking And budgetting for every day living be taught at school ?”
    I’ve thought for many years that all children should be taught in school how to cook a simple nutricious meal from basic ingredients.

    But does our education system really educate our children for their future lives?

  • Chris Moore 15th May '22 - 9:18am

    @David Raw, David, I agree entirely that poverty and inequality should be our number one priority as a party.

    There is also heavy use of food banks – I use to volunteer – and deep inequalities in the very affluent region of Spain in which I live. Worse in southern Spain.

    The same is true in France and Italy, countries I also know well. This is a Europe-wide phenomenon that reflects failures of well-off capitalist societies to take redistribution seriously. (Similar problems in S Korea btw.)

    The fact that UBI – indiscriminate and untargetted and hopelessly expensive – is trotted out by LD policy wonks as a solution demonstrates a lack of intellectual seriousness and true interest in the issue.

  • Helen Dudden 15th May '22 - 11:26am

    I was taught cookery at secondary school then after a few years cut backs.
    Wood working was another option.
    The problems with inconsistencies has been there for year’s.
    Jeremy Hunt cut the NHS as we all know, now it’s overwhelmed by those on lists.
    Partygate has taken over as with questions on funding. At the change of a political party things don’t always change positively.

  • I hope that the Fairer Society policy paper, which is due at our autumn Conference, will include the aim to end poverty in the UK over two Parliaments. It has a huge remit which includes tackling poverty. For me tackling poverty should mean ending poverty in the UK. In the preamble to our constitution we say that living in poverty is like being enslaved with regard to a person’s freedom to choose and do many things. Ending this type of enslaved should be one of our highest priorities along with ensuring people are not ignorant and are not held back by the need to conform.

  • Peter Chambers 15th May '22 - 2:11pm

    If every person knew how to cook an adequate meal from basic ingredients then profits from convenience and fast-food firms would suffer. Similarly, if everyone working from home returned to the office then profits for commercial letting would rise. However profits for teleworking providers would perhaps fall. How we live and what we do is subject to government policy that is subject to donations or conflicts of interest.
    The same effect applies to the ability to write a CV, a business letter, or attend an interview. Will state schools match independent ones on those things?

  • Whilst teaching cooking is a good thing, to talk about it as if it is a solution to poverty and destitution is missing the point. The UK is the fifth wealthiest nation on the planet. Our problem isn’t a lack of wealth, it is the inhumane maldistribution of that wealth that is the root cause of this problem.

  • Nonconformistradical 15th May '22 - 4:49pm

    “If every person knew how to cook an adequate meal from basic ingredients then profits from convenience and fast-food firms would suffer.”

    Oh dear! They’d have to find some other way of making money – just like any other commercial organisation whose product goes out of favour!

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