18 Dec 2013

The Spirit of Christmas

This new report by Green MEP Keith Taylor shows a 60% rise in food bank use and thousands facing a hungry Christmas: http://ow.ly/rNhZ5 

The report focuses on the South East, an area traditionally a lot better off than much of the country. It is a shocking thing that in an affluent nation like ours, anyone should be hungry, but hunger is on the rise. Malnutrition is a real risk for people who regularly miss meals, or go more than five days without eating, with long term health implications for people who aren’t eating properly. If you’ve never done that, you might take a moment to try and imagine what it’s like not to be able to afford to eat properly. Weight is no indicator, either. A person eating a badly balanced diet, can be both obese and suffering malnutrition. Junk food with lots of calories but little nutritional value, is often a cheap option.

The Charity The Trussell Trust runs a number of foodbanks in Stroud district – typically open for a few hours several days a week, they are giving food to some of the most desperate people in the district. Dursley Tabernacle, Douglas Morley Hall in Stonehouse, Wotton Baptist Church and The Cross at Parliament Street, Stroud, all host foodbanks. http://strouddistrict.foodbank.org.uk/

Of course you have to be able to get there. We have a lot of smaller villages across the district, many of which do not get much of a bus service. The person who cannot afford food probably also can’t afford the cost of petrol, or a bus ticket even assuming a bus is available. We might imagine the countryside as a place for the wealthy, but many of our villages also have small pockets of council housing, and older people in houses bought before rural property prices inflated so outrageously. We have a small population of people living on narrowboats as well. The tendency of foodbanks to be in small towns, may hide the extent of rural poverty and the people who cannot access that help.

The rise in foodbanks marks the failure of our modern politics and culture. They are proof of a corrupt system that punishes the poor for being poor. The government may talk of ‘recovery’ but Shelter (http://www.shelter.org.uk/) are telling us there will be some 80,000 homeless children in the UK this Christmas. And how many hungry people? This is not recovery, this is the destruction of lives, and an assault on civilization.
St Nicholas was a saint famous for giving to others. This Christmas, charity at home is more critical, more needed than it’s been since the Victorian era. You can bet the bankers who wrecked our economy, and the politicians who dish out the austerity measures will not be going hungry on Christmas day, or any other day. Plenty of other people will. It’s not acceptable.

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