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Minister rules out food bank funds

Support for food banks has been ruled out by Whitehall, despite evidence from Wales that they help cut waste.

Environment minister Lord de Mauley said the Government would not support food banks just days before a charity revealed that food bank use was at its highest in a decade (see report, right).

Food banks take food donated by the public, supermarkets and catering firms and distribute it to people in need, thus using food that might otherwise have been wasted.

Liberal Democrat peer Lord Greaves asked whether the Government would give financial support, but Lord de Mauley replied: “The Government are not considering the provision of funding to support food banks.

“We do, however, recognise the good work of organisations that redistribute surplus food to help reduce food poverty, assist the homeless and provide access to nutritional meals for those who may otherwise struggle.”

He praised WRAP’s work with charities Fareshare and FoodCycle to increase food distribution from retail stores and said local authorities could fund food banks if they chose.

Lord Greaves told MRW that he asked the question because “it is a disgrace that in this day and age that people should have to rely on food banks”.

He said he was concerned that so much food was wasted and said it should be used to feed people rather than enter the waste stream.

“Some local authorities are funding food banks from the money they have to replace the social fund, so indirectly there is some Government support for them,” he added.

The Trussell Trust, which runs nearly 350 food banks, said it had seen the biggest rise in numbers of people given emergency food since its work began in 2000.

Almost 350,000 people have received at least three days worth of emergency food from the trust during the past year, nearly 100,000 more than anticipated and close to triple the number helped in 2011-12.

Executive chair Chris Mould said: “The sheer volume of people who are turning to foodbanks because they can’t afford food is a wake-up call to the nation that we cannot ignore the hunger on our doorstep.”

A Trussell Trust spokeswoman said it was not looking for Government finance support as it wished to “remain independent and not become part of the welfare state”.

The Welsh Government supports Fareshare, which collects food for distribution to food banks, children’s centres, churches and other outlets.

A spokesman said it was “not actively lobbying” for similar support in England and Scotland.

Welsh natural resources minister Alun Davies this week visited Fareshare Cymru’s Huggard Centre in Cardiff.

The charity has had £1m of Welsh Government funding, which Davies said had saved “almost 550 tonnes of perfectly good food from being sent to landfill”.

Davies said: “Perfectly edible food should not be being buried in the ground and left to rot when so many people are going without a good meal.”

WRAP has this week launched a ‘virtual kitchen app’ to help consumers reduce food waste.

 

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