Rugby families face festive food ‘crisis’

Diana Mansell, Pat Webb, Margaret Williams, Ron Williams, Fred Smyth, Jon Hitchen and Sam Knight at Rugby Foodbank
Diana Mansell, Pat Webb, Margaret Williams, Ron Williams, Fred Smyth, Jon Hitchen and Sam Knight at Rugby Foodbank

A “staggering” rise in the number of families using Rugby Foodbank has led to calls for action to reduce poverty.

The charity has helped 3,176 people so far this year – up from 2,061 in the same period last year. Some 37 per cent of those it helps are children.

And with Christmas approaching, the charity is calling on politicians to take steps urgently to alleviate the crisis.

Manager Diana Mansell said: “This will undoubtedly be a pressured time for many families in Rugby. I can’t imagine not being able to buy my children Christmas presents, let alone not feed them – but sadly this is the reality for many in Rugby.

“The rise is staggering. Benefit delay, low income, benefit change and debt are the main reasons for foodbank use both locally and nationally. Low income is becoming a bigger issue than in previous years. Working families on low income often just cannot make ends meet. Debt can naturally follow on from this. Food, fuel and housing costs have increased far beyond the rate at which salary have gone up.”

A report backed by the Church of England into the use of food banks was published this week. Among its recommendations are reform of the benefits system, improving parents’ cooking skills and raising the minimum wage.

Diana added: “I hope all politicians will think carefully about these recommendations and seek to implement significant changes to ensure that the tide of this growing crisis turns soon.

“Underemployment, minimum wage and zero hour contracts may take people off the unemployment figures but appear to do little to put more money in people’s pockets.”

She praised the “incredible” generosity of townspeople, who have donated 30 tonnes of food this year .

Diana added: “By donating something you are helping someone in your town – a neighbour, a family at school. Who knows when it might be you in need yourself?”

Responding to the concerns, Rugby MP Mark Pawsey said: “The welfare system supports millions of people in order that no-one has to struggle to meet their basic needs. People visit food banks for a variety of complex reasons which need to be understood.

“The use of food banks went up tenfold during the previous administration, when the country was experiencing a period of sustained economic growth. This Government is working to help families and tackle the cost of living by taking three million people out of tax altogether, increasing the tax allowance, cutting the cost of fuel and energy bills, providing free school meals for all primary school children, slashing childcare costs and increasing the national minimum wage.

“I have visited the foodbank in Rugby and met the team of incredibly dedicated and generous volunteers and have also collected food at local supermarkets and witnessed remarkable generosity from those stores and from local people.”

Visit www.rugby.foodbank.org.uk to find out how to donate.